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The German Side 
of the Story 


Translated and edited by 




Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 61-8782 




Preface 9 

I Learning the Soft Way 1 1 

II Learning the Hard Way 18 

III The First Successful Escape 31 

IV Skirmishings and Exchanges 38 
V Sniping and Sapping 52 

VI Private Enterprise 64 

VII Overconfidence Undermined 74 

VIII A Reshuffle The Game Goes On 87 

IX Strange Faces Red Faces 96 

X Son et Lumifcre 106 

XI End of the International 1 1 7 

XII Franz Joseph 1 25 

XIII No Co-operation 135 

XIV Waiting for the Bell 145 
XV Breaking Point 154 

XVI The Greatest Escaper 161 

XVII The Fading Light 167 

XVIII The Highlights Go 175 

XIX R61es reversed 183 

Index 185 


Between pages 96 and 97 

1 Colditz Castle from the south-west 

2 The path to the park 

3 Looking into the prisoners* yard from the approach 


4 The south side of the prisoners' yard, showing the 

"seam 55 

5 The "seam" from the German yard side 

6 The author when on the Colditz staff 

7 The rope of bed linen hanging on the guardhouse 

after Lieuts. Surmanowitz and Chmiel had 
been caught 

8 The rope used by Lieuts. Hyde-Thomson and Just 

just visible hanging on the outside face of the 
archway cells 

9 The hole in the grass-covered terrace outside the 

British canteen 

10 The entrance to the tunnel under the canteen floor 

1 1 Howard Gee and Giles Romilly in Colditz 

12 Lieut. Boulay in his disguise as a German woman 

13 Lieut. Airey Neave after his attempt to escape 

dressed as a German corporal 

14 The camouflage net covered with leaves under 

which two Dutch officers were discovered 

15 The hole beneath the stage in the theatre through 

which four officers escaped 

1 6 The scene of the second British mass break-out 


17, 1 8, 19 Three photographs of the great French 
chapel tunnel 

20 A smart squad of Dutch officers on parade 



21, 22 Hying Officer Bruce's escape: the rope of blue 
and white bed sheets ; the broken Red Gross box 
.in which Bruce was hidden 

23 We reconstructed the attempt of six officers to 

escape from a storeroom on the north side of the 

24 Two of the Dutch officers pictured on an earlier 


25 Willi, the camp electrician, and his double, Lieut. 


26 A prisoner's fake pass bearing a photograph taken 

with a home-made camera 

27 The greatest escaper of them all : Lieut. Michael 

Sinclair, "The Red Fox" 

28 Sergeant-Major "Franz Josef 

29 A box for a chess set containing money and maps 

30 The back of a shove-ha'penny board and the 

money, compasses and hacksaw blade it con- 

31 A radio set found in the staircase of the chapel 


32 "Plug in to Tunis". When we removed part of the 

map of North Africa in the French quarters we 
found a radio set behind it 



Colditz, Oflag 40 20-21 


GOLDITZ is the most famous of the German prisoner-of-war camps, 
in the main as a result of the appearance of a number of books and 
a film about the exploits which were indeed remarkable and 
unique of its inmates. All these books have been written from the 
prisoner's point of view, and until this present volume no one has 
told the story of Colditz as seen from the other side. 

I was on the Colditz staff for a longer period than any other 
member from November 1940 until the castle was engulfed in 
the Allied advance a few days before the end of the war. First I 
was a Duty Officer and later the Security Officer. This, together 
with a knowledge of English and French, gave me as a good a chance 
as anyone on the German staff of knowing what was going on. How 
little this sometimes was will become evident from this story. In 
fact it was not until I read some of the accounts of events in Colditz 
published in Britain and France that I discovered the secrets and 
results of some of the escape attempts. I think this account may be 
equally revealing to those who were prisoners in Colditz. 

This is a mainly chronological narrative of events in Colditz 
as I and my colleagues saw them. Only occasionally do the general 
course of the war and outside events in Germany come into the 
story. At times some mention must be made of them as they had a 
bearing on the relationship between the staff and guards and the 
prisoners. So on occasion did political ideology; the prisoners were 
both anti-German and anti-Nazi, and in the latter respect some 
of the staff were on common ground with them. My own outlook 
derived from experiences going back to the First World War. 

One unshakeable conviction with which I came home after that 
struggle was that the peoples of Europe must get away from the 
self-destruction of successive wars, and learn somehow to cooperate 
for the sake of their own survival. Towards this end, therefore, I 
sought, as soon as it became possible, and made, friends in England, 
France and Switzerland between the wars. So we were able to 
invite them home and I went abroad on return visits. In particular, 
I stayed at Cheltenham with some of my pupils, and boys from the 
grammar school there came over on exchange visits to where I was 
teaching. Travel was cheap in those days, only 120 marks for a 
month's stay including the journey, barely ten pounds in sterling. 
These visits were a great success. Obviously more must follow. 

Then came 1933. I was denounced by six of my colleagues at 
school. The matter went to the Nazi Kommissar in charge of 



cleaning up the Civil Service and getting rid of anti-party men, I was 
accused of being leftist, pacifist and an internationalist. There 
followed questionnaires, difficult interviews but as I belonged to 
no political party, my fate was only (though it was severe enough) 
down-grading from grammar school teacher to council school, and 
a ban on further promotion. The open doors of our house were 
closed by higher authority against our friends, and so we shut 
ourselves up in it too. Visits from abroad came to an end. But I 
would not be driven against my will into the Partei, or any part 
of it. If the worst came and I lost my job, I would live and work 
on the land, of which I owned about five acres. 

In 1939 the Second World War. Those who had denounced 
me stayed at home. My sons were called up. The Old World 
started on a further plunge downwards. How could we acclaim the 
Partei and its Leader, we who had come through one fruitless war 
and still held to our sense of honour and duty and decency? Toll 
would be levied, we knew, but how much? Like other officers on 
the Army reserve list, I listened anxiously for my call-up. 

It was in a way odd that having been accused of being an inter- 
nationalist I should spend most of the war in so uniquely 
"internationalist" a place as Colditz. There we had officer prisoners 
of all nations (excepting the Soviet Union). We were all Europeans. 

Many incidents have had to be omitted but I have tried to avoid 
any omission or perversion of material facts. Such comments as 
appear are, of course, my personal views. In Colditz itself, now in 
the East Zone of Germany, the town museum houses the (I might 
say "my") collection of escape material, documents and photos 
(some reproduced here) which served to train our security 
personnel. I offer this book in the hope that it may be worthy of a 
place on the shelf alongside its English and French counterparts. 


Learning the Soft Way 

THE NEW arrivals meant more trouble. In the yard surrounded 
by the ancient walls of the castle we searched them and their kit. 
Sometimes we found money, keys, maps and civilian clothing all 
the contraband of the skilled escaper but much was probably 

The prisoners looked on, amused by our efforts; later when we 
had them shut in their quarters they watched sardonically through 
the bars and the wire. 

The late gaolers of the newcomers had been happy at the prospect 
of seeing the last of these troublemakers, but they had feared to 
lose some of them en route. Would we take over at the earliest possible 
point or would we at least send reinforcements for their escort, 
where they changed from the main-line train? The usual pattern 
was for a party of heavily-guarded prisoners to set out on a two- 
or three-day journey to the castle, ten, twenty strong, perhaps more. 
Guards to the same, or even a greater number, would accompany 
them. Yet again and again, men would disappear on the way in 
the confusion of travel. 

Some would be quickly recaught, some would vanish into occu- 
pied territory for so long, some would get away to a neutral country. 
Some would carry right on and get home. Some on the other hand 
would disappear for ever, never to be heard of again perhaps 
nameless victims of the war. 

And so, while ready to do our duty at all times and places, we 
felt we should cross the bridge only when we came to it, unless the 
prisoners had, in a sense, dismantled it before we gfct there! Let 
Kriegsgcfangenenlager So-and-So deliver its charges to our door, 
into our very yard for preference. Then, and not till then, would 
we formally take delivery. 

A couple of us from the castle met the party at the station and 
showed them up through the town, for form's sake. In any case, 
no one could miss the great mass of buildings high above the town 
on the east bank of the river. Everyone in the place, the whole 
district around, certainly every PW camp in Germany knew, that 
up there was Officer PW Special Camp No. 40, the only one in 
the Second World War. 

A quarter of an hour from the station, and the group was in the 
yard ready for searching. Our telephone was at the disposal of their 


escorting officer, to advise whoever it might be that this or that 
prisoner had dodged the column. We were sympathetic. These 
things must be expected. 

For this was Colditz and these prisoners were the bad types, 
undesirables in the eyes of the German High Command. Many of 
them had already established reputations as disturbers of the peace 
with their frequent attempts to get out of captivity. That was why 
they were sent to us. 

Well fed and clothed from their parcels from home, men of 
brains and energy, we gave them in Colditz what they needed 
above all to synthesize these last in escape planning time. Not 
subject to compulsory work, being officer PWs, they had all the 
time, and not much else, in the world to occupy themselves as they 
would. The obsession of the escapologist became the profession of 
the escaper. 

We kept them in formally with rifles and bayonets and machine* 
guns, with searchlights to spot them, and microphones to pick them 
up. We searched them by day and by night, individually and in 
groups. We censored their mail and their books and their parcels. 
We checked them with roll-calls, photos and fingerprints. And yet 
they got out. 

We had more than enough on our hands in Colditz, where a 
hard core of such characters was built up over the war years from 
1940 on. From these men we, representatives of the "holding 
power", took lessons and instruction in escapology, lessons which 
we were in duty bound to interrupt. To these men we awarded the 
appropriate punishment, and our grudging admiration. 

As often as not we had just got our current strength under 
control, or thought we had, when the OKW (the German High 
Command) threw a new handful of "aces" into the prisoners* 
ranks. It took time to trump these men. We repeatedly thought that 
it was we who held all the cards in the escape game, but time and 
again the deal changed hands. Astute though we became, it was 
often the prisoner who was the sharper ! 

For over four years I was part and parcel of the first hurdle of 
authority that the Colditz escaper had to beat. But if someone 
did not force a way through, someone else would more cleverly 
effect a move round or over the barrier. The safe, we thought, was 
locked and double-locked, and wired for sound, vision and shock, 
with a bare minimum of access, under the tightest control we could 
devise. At times I held one of the keys, for a while, all of the keys, 
yet so often it was the prisoner who made the safe get-away, leaving 
me with the keys and the combination, but neither swag nor swank 
for my pains. 

Colditz was a tough proposition whichever way one looked at it 


My introduction to prisoners-of-war was, however, rather a different 

In May 1940 I was called up to the reserve battalion of an 
infantry regiment, with the rank of Lieutenant. At that time, 
naturally enough, morale everywhere in Germany was sky-high. 
Two blitzkriegs had finished off Poland and France. Russia was 
our friend, by treaty. The USA was neutral and well out of it all. 
Was Hitler after all the genius he claimed to be? 

Back in the army I found nothing much had changed in twenty 
years. Drill, shop, smoking, drink, and everlasting boredom. But 
officers' food nowadays came from the same kitchen as the men's. 
We all had the same rations. I noticed another remarkable thing, 
and was the happier for it, namely the coolness between the 
Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) and the ParteL We did our duty to, 
and by, the local bosses, but no more. 

Meanwhile,' leave was good that first summer of the war. 

By the end of the summer we all got postings. Some officers went 
to 404 Division in Poland. Some went to France. I was over fifty 
now, and in a way a specialist, with my languages. And so Fate 
picked me for special treatment. In August I was sent on an 
interpreters' course at Dresden. In September I went to Hohnstein, 
in Saxony, as interpreter on the staff of Oflag (Officers' PW Camp) 

So far, all right. Had I but known it, my time at Hohnstein was 
no true introduction to the underworld (there is no better word) 
of the prisoner-of-war life, with attacks on authority as its guiding 
theme, and counter-attacks by us, responsible for security, as its 
counterpoint. As a training course for Colditz, this first experience 
was a sorry let-down. Life may well be a game, with rules to be kept 
or broken at the dictates of duty, or with the evasions of expediency, 
but for life, as well as for sport, training must be hard if one is to 
stay the course, and even harder if one is to achieve honour on the 
way or at the finish. 

In war, both bodies and minds should be as it were beaten into 
the one mould, from which come the physical and intellectual 
weapons of success.- The forging of these weapons is the job of the 
experts in physical training, technical training, and the training of 
morale, three separates in one singleness of purpose. But at Hohn- 
stein, we were far too truly in clover. The place was, anglice, a 
cushy billet. There was no conflict, physical or mental, between the 
Kommandantur or staff side, and the prisoners. There seemed, 
indeed, to be no problem at all in their handling. So none of us 
felt we had, or even could possibly need, anything to learn. 

Hohnstein lies in the "little Switzerland" of Saxony, where the 


streams drain through the sandstone cliffs to the Elbe. The whole 
area seemed to me so quiet and delightful that I felt the God of War 
had overlooked it completely. Every prospect pleased, and even 
my colleagues too ! 

Our Kommandantur, or Headquarters, was in a post office 
hostel on the edge of the woods. The town was like any other 
summer resort, clean and tidy, and mostly made up of guest houses 
and small "pensions". Not very far off, within walking distance, 
was the "Brand" inn, up the Polenz valley, and a little further off 
lay Rathe, on the Elbe, famous for the Karl May Festivals. 

The staff in charge of the prison camp was well, though for- 
tuitously, chosen. The camp itself spread over quite a large space 
on the Hohe Stein, high up above the town, on a plateau surrounded 
by clifls and approachable only one way by a single road. 

Our Kommandant was a seventy-two-year-old Lieut-General. 
During the First World War he had had command of a Wiirttemberg 
regiment. In the late 'thirties he had retired to Wiirttemberg as a 
professor of military science, in which he took an interest still. He 
used to type out theses and articles far into the night, keeping 
himself and his staff well up-to-date in his pet subject. The General 
had seen it all, the military and political rise and fall of the Kaisers, 
the Republic, and of soldiers and politicians without number, from 
the end of the nineteenth to well on into the twentieth century. 
This present war, and all the political background to it within and 
without our frontiers, were to him but another phase, which to his 
detached eye might turn out good or bad. But better or worse, 
he had known both and was prepared accordingly. Through all his 
life, duty had been his guiding star, and on that he set and held 
his course, however the winds might shift. 

The General's address, when his staff was completed by my 
arrival, was something as follows : "I am very happy to have again 
a staff under me, for the first time since 1918, that has known the 
rough winds of both peace and war around their ears. I want you, 
in carrying out your duties in this camp, to keep to that indepen- 
dence of thought and action you must have learnt for yourselves in 
life* My part I wish to restrict to serious matters only. The adjutant 
will see that you get as much leave as you are entitled to. No shop 
at meals, please. We'll have a party in the Mess once a week, and 
you can play cards and drink. But no gambling. And to keep your 
minds occupied, each one of you will write an appreciation of some 
phase of the Napoleonic Wars, as they affected the Kingdom of 
Saxony. You'll find all the books in Dresden. The camp is yours to 
control. I'm not going up there on duty matters. When I do visit 
the place, it'll be treated as an event." 
The prisoners at Hohnstcin were in the main French officers, 


a hundred in number up to the rank of colonel, plus 28 generals. 
In addition, there were seven Dutch and 27 Polish generals, and 
orderlies of the different nationalities. They appreciated our 
General's attitude. Everything was very correct. There was practi- 
cally no trouble of any kind. The prisoners laid on an entertainment 
every fortnight, and it was on the occasion of these shows that the 
Kommandant marked the event with his own visit, accepting 
regularly an invitation to attend. We laid on wine for all on these 
afternoons, as our contribution to the amiable atmosphere. 

There had only once been an escape attempt from Hohnstein. 
Two Dutch officers got down the cliff with a fire hose, but were soon 
retaken. The senior French officer, senior under our regulations by 
length of service, was a colonel. We lent him a typewriter on parole, 
and he used to work away at "The Causes of the Defeat of France". 
He put it all down to Marxist Communism, and the consequent 
failure of French Parliamentary authority, with subsequent 
deficiencies in Service training and equipment. I remember from 
those days just one little incident with a hint of unpleasantness in 
it, absolutely nothing, though, compared with what was to come at 

The Dutch escapers were transferred to another camp, and at the 
search before they went, we found a list of all the PWs at Hohn- 
stein, with name, rank, home address and military record. The 
Kommandant ordered the list to be confiscated, but with some 
hesitation. We in Security were quite sure of finding a second list 
concealed on their persons, but the General flatly refused to allow 
a personal search. "I will not have any exaggerated interpretation 
of our duties to search," he insisted. 

We were a bit shocked by his point of view. Later, at Colditz, 
I wondered how long this state of mind would have lasted! I 
doubt if there the General could have kept the prisoners under 
control simply by standing on his rank and on the respect he would 
have laid claim to as an old soldier. That was naturally all right 
among Germans, who have a natural awe of the "alter Soldat", 
and With most foreigners of his own age and profession. But there 
were not many such among the Colditz "types". 

The General was a great family man, too, with sons ranking high 
in the Luftwaffe. He was a keen gardener as well and spoke very 
house-proudly of his family home, and of the other homes he had 
made for his children and grandchildren. He had a tremendous 
respect for the common man, and was always ready to learn some- 
thing from anyone, a gardening tip, a home hint, or some new 
way of getting interests into children's heads. To me he was unique, 
for all my eleven years in the army, and in all my civilian life, with 
his approach to, his quickness of understanding and so his control 


of, men. I have never known any man, and I must say it again, so 
respected by all he met casually, or dealt with authoritatively. He 
was one of the best of our German "old school". 

There were no politics in our Mess. The Party was in power and 
the army found itself rehabilitated. We looked no further than that. 

Life went on that autumn very pleasantly. The Kommandant 
picked out for my particular study, as ordered, the siege of Dresden 
in 1813 and the battles of Kulm and Nollendorf. Here the French 
and the Prussians under General von Kleist fought so fiercely that 
only night stopped the battle, and no one knew who had won ! It 
was impossible to see who had most men left on the field. So they 
spent the night together round great fires, agreeing to fight no more 
till daylight which showed the French in full retreat, and who now 
was prisoner of whom! 

Life went on that autumn very pleasantly we had no "trouble" 
at all. We ran the camp at Hohnstein as close to the Geneva 
Convention as its not very detailed provisions required. This 
agreement had been initialled in July 1929, and ratified by Hitler 
in 1934. It placed prisoners-of-war under the discipline and control 
of the same arm of the service of their captors. It regulated visits 
by a so-called Protecting Power, who did what they could to see 
that the Convention and the humanities were observed. In this 
capacity, the Swiss looked after the British and De-Gaullists, and 
later the Americans. The P6tain Government looked after the 
French. The Dutch were under the care of the Swedish Government. 
But the Poles came under the care of the International Red Cross 
because, we argued, there was no longer any Polish State. 

Personal relations between us Germans and the prisoners at 
Hohnstein were in 1940 rather more than just correct. There 
was quite a degree of what I shortly was to recall as "old-fashioned" 
politeness in our dealings. I had, for example, an hour's lesson daily 
in French from one of their colonels. A Dutch general taught me 
Dutch, which I found easy, as I speak plattdeutsch dialect. 

I found the Polish officers difficult of approach, though we got 
on correctly enough in official matters. One day, an order came 
authorizing a walk outside the camp area for two hours a day, for 
all prisoners excepting the Poles. This exceptional treatment was 
given to the Poles because the campaign in Poland had not been 
fought according to the rules of war by the civilians who had played 
a part, and therefore Polish prisoners should not receive favours 
of any kind. Although our Kommandant took pains to give them 
these reasons as passed down to him, in person, the Poles were 
naturally enraged at this victimization, as they saw it. The 
suggestion that they, the Polish Army, must suffer for the deeds of 
the Polish people, they rejected as yuatsch or nonsense, or whatever 


their own equivalent is. In other respects, they were on the same 
footing as the other prisoners. 

It was all too good to last, but the end came most unexpectedly. 
In October 1940 I escorted two French officers to Strasbourg for 
release. One was a diabetes case. The other was a schoolmaster, 
wanted back by Paris. We left greetings from our General at the 
Hecht Hotel in Konstanz on the way, where he had stayed a good 
deal. Strasbourg looked nearly normal. The Rhine bridges, though, 
were still down. I noticed a synagogue burnt out, and a lot of 
property marked "confiscated", but there was no general damage. 

The two officers left me with thanks for their good treatment, 
and on my way back I stopped off at Halle for a couple of days' 
leave. There was an air-raid alarm that evening over the town, no 
trains were running and I had to walk home, over an hour, in a 
snowstorm with a minus temperature. 

When I got back to Hohnstein on the last day of the month, the 
camp was empty. The prisoners had all been transferred and the 
Hitler Jugend was taking over the place for bombed-out children 
from Hamburg and Berlin. It was rumoured that the older officers 
among us would be released from service. The Kommandant went 
to the general reserve. 

One by one the staff was posted. And still I awaited the next 
turn of Fate. On November 22nd, 1940, my orders came, for 
Kriegsgefangenenoffizierssonderlager 40, at Golditz, a small town 
between Leipzig and Dresden. This sounded interesting "Officer 
PW Special Camp". What kind of a place was this? What was 
special about it? I knew what prisoners were like. I knew how to 
handle them. I knew about prisoner-staff relationships, for I had 
done a stint of PW life. I thought I knew it all. I knew- as you say 
d all". 


Learning the Hard Way 

ON CHRISTMAS EVE 1940, the frost broke and it snowed heavily 
all night. Next morning in the courtyard of Colditz Castle, the 
circling prisoners packed the snow solid under foot. There were 
then about sixty Polish officers in this camp, a dozen Belgian, fifty 
French and thirty British, plus, of course, their orderlies a total 
strength of not more than two hundred. All had been classified 
"undesirable" by our authorities, some for their politics, some for 
their hatred of all things German, most for escape attempts from 
other camps. Against this "international" was a German staff 
consisting of a Commandant and about ten to fifteen other officers, 
plus half a dozen NCOs and a Guard Company of about a hundred 
and fifty at a time, with, naturally, their own NCOs and officer 
in command. So far, although I had only been there a month, I 
had found nothing very unusual about this so-called "sonderlager" 
or special camp. There had been no escape attempts up to then. 
The prisoners seemed a bit undisciplined, perhaps, by contrast 
with Hohnstein, where I had been before, but no doubt these too 
would soon all settle down to while away their time while the war 
ran its course. 

Colditz Castle itself was an unattractive building, dominating 
four-square the small town of Colditz, which lies astride the River 
Mulde in Upper Saxony. Very roughly, the buildings consisted of 
two courtyards backing on to each other. The prisoners' courtyard 
contained buildings going back to the very earliest days of the castle, 
which had been built, rebuilt and added to repeatedly, ever since 
its first appearance in recorded history, in the year 1014. It had 
been a hunting lodge for the kings of Saxony. It had belonged in the 
sixteenth century to the Danish princess, Anne, who in 1583 married 
the Kurfuerst of Saxony. She it was who planted the small vineyard 
on the slopes across the valley north of the castle, overlooking the 
river. From 1603 to 1622 the daughter of the Kurfuerst of Branden- 
burg lived in the Schloss, and gave her name to the Sophienplatz 
in the town. In the Thirty Years War, Saxony was on the Protestant 
side. First the Imperialists sacked Colditz, in 1634, then the Swedes 
retook it and set up in the castle for several years. Swedish troops 
were there again in 1706 during the war with Russia. 

As a residence for the Dukes of Saxony, Colditz ceased to be used 
after 1753. The castle became a prison as from 1800. From 1828 



the place was a lunatic asylum, and the same, I often felt, between 
1940 and 1945! A concentration camp was its next fate in 1933, 
and for a year after that became an Arbeitsdienst camp, for Hitler 

From October 1939 the castle had operated as a PW camp for 
Polish officers. In the summer of 1940 these had been largely 
replaced by Belgian officers. They in turn had mostly been released 
after the Blitzkrieg on signing a general parole. Finding it had a 
nearly empty camp on its hands, the OKW decided to set up a 
Sonderlager, or "Lager mit besonderer Bewachung" a special camp, 
with strict surveillance of the inmates, as permitted under Article 48 
of the Geneva Convention, though without loss of any other 
prisoners 9 rights as provided by this agreement. In effect, this camp 
had a greater number of searches, roll-calls and so on than in normal 
camps, and much less room to move around in just a forty-yards- 
square courtyard, and no open space except the park outside, which 
might only be visited for short and fixed periods daily under some 
restriction and much surveillance. 

You might think at first sight that the place was impregnable. 
It probably was, but apart from putting bars on the windows it 
had never really been built for the purpose of keeping people in. 
As time went on I realized that while Colditz, like so many other 
castles, might be impregnable from without, it certainly was not 
"impregnable" from within. Breaking out was shown to be much 
easier than breaking in! 

The German administrative buildings were in the newer 
eighteenth-century yard, comprising Kommandantur offices, store- 
rooms and so on.| There were two ways into the German yard, one 
through the main gate and one from the park side. There was only 
one gateway into the prisoners' yard, with the guardroom adjacent 
Access between the two yards was out of the north-west corner of our 
yard under what was known as the archway up along an approach 
yard to the guardroom and there sharp right through a door in a 
large double gate, to what I have called throughout the prisoners' 
yard, as opposed to the German yard. In both yards the buildings 
ran up three floors high with double attics above them. All round the 
entire castle the ground fell away in terraces, on the west towards 
the town and on the north and east sides down towards the park. 

* Today the castle is part hospital, part home for the aged. The town museum 
holds what is labelled a most remarkable collection of items and photographs of 
escape material, used by Allied officer PWs in World War II. This collection was 
brought down from the castle after the war from our "escape museum", which we 
used to allow the public to visit on Armed Forces Day, and where we also used 
to train newcomers of all ranks in the difficult job of countering this kind of 

t See plan overleaf. 

(Of by IV C) 


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The south side of the prisoners* yard was the north side of ours. 
We occupied the ground floors on our side they had kitchens and 
so on, on theirs. But this stretch of building was only as it were 
one room thick above the ground floor. The rooms were 'all in our 
occupation but at the south-east corner the prisoners 9 rooms backed 
on to ours, and at the other end of this "seam" the Saalhaus rooms, 
which housed the allied senior officers, overlooked the German yard. 
The prisoners repeatedly exploited these points of junction and 
overlap for their own purposes escape. A more unsuitable place 
to hold prisoners will probably never again be chosen. Escape 
attempts were made, and many succeeded, over the roofs, under the 
foundations, through the walls, through the bars, in disguises, in 
concealment, on an average of, I should say, once in ten days during 
the more than four years that I was in this camp. Details of some 
escapes I never discovered until ten years after the war was over, 
when I read about them in one or other of the books which were 
written by French or British ex-prisoners. Even today the methods 
followed in some of these escapes are still not completely known 
to me. 

That Christmas of 1940 was one of suspense. Germany had won 
the first two rounds of the war against Poland and France with 
knock-out blows. She had drawn with England. In the west was 
now a stalemate. It seemed odd to me that with this situation the 
current propaganda on our side called for "no capitulation" 
notices already hardly victory talk. There was one of these up 
on a local factory. Bombs were being exchanged between Germany 
and England. The home fronts were part of the battlefield now, 
almost the only battlefield, excepting perhaps the Atlantic. Our 
National Socialists had things well in hand. No one dreamt of a 
war on two fronts. We were getting millions of tons of grain from 
Russia, so no one was hungry, and she was also letting through 
supplies of all kinds from Japan and America. 

As my leave was over the New Year, I was on duty for this, 
my first Christmas among prisoners. I was interested to see how they 
would spend it. The French and Poles, of course, had long 
established letter and parcel-post contact with home. The British 
channeb were still rather unorganized, but their first food parcels 
arrived at the beginning of December, from the British Red Cross. 
There was no shortage of food in the prisoners' yard that Christmas 
or in our German yard adjoining. There was wine and beer in 
both though we rationed this among the prisoners and gave them 
no strong drink at all. 

Entertainment was provided by the Poles. They put on a magnifi- 
cent marionette show with musical accompaniments and a translated 
commentary. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfi" was the main 


piece. After that came a sort of allegory of Polish history, the 
finale showing these men returning to Poland after the ultimate 
victory, just as they had done in 1918, to re-establish their inde- 
pendence. Their national hymn, the Dombrowska March, tells that 

I think the Polish officers were top in "morale" at the end of that 
year 1940, although they had been in our hands for over fifteen 
months. The French were still solemn after their defeat. The British 
were digging themselves in, so I thought. Under the canteen floor, 
had we but known it, and not digging themselves in, but digging 
themselves out ! It wasn't only to their national success that they 
were drinking on Boxing Day in one bottle of wine between three 
from that very canteen. It was a local victory they were hoping 
for, also from the canteen where they had started a tunnel, by then 
well under way. 

We had our own Christmas celebration in the Wal<isch&nke, the 
inn in the forest. We all had a pound of real coffee beans in our extra 
rations, the last of it I saw for years. So quiet was Oflag 40 that I 
remember nothing of equal importance that Christmas ! 

After I got back from leave, Russian officer prisoners quartered 
in the town celebrated their orthodox Christmas on January nth. 
Their Pope, or priest, came from Dresden, where there had been a 
White Russian community for years. He used to bring a choir with 
him for their Sunday Masses. These Russians were all from 
Wrangd's army White Russians, who had settled mainly in France 
in the 'twenties, or in Yugoslavia, and had taken the appropriate 
nationality. The choir had some beautiful women singers and a 
Russian officer of French nationality professed to fall in love with 
one of them. They became officially betrothed. She helped him to 
escape; and there the acquaintance ended. He got safely to France, 
while she landed safe in gaol. This was my first lesson in PW 
duplicity ! 

Looking back now, I can hardly recognize myself as I was at 
Colditz at New Year 1941. It is difficult enough to make out any- 
thing at alTof my own personality at the other side of the shattering 
events of that fatal year and all that followed, after Adolf Hitler 
finally brought in Russia, Japan and the United States and got the 
total war he had so long preached. I was then still judging events 
with the worldly wisdom of the 'i4-'i8 War and the international 
viewpoint that I had built up for myself in the years between. It 
was not long before I had to bring my nose rapidly down to earth, 
and on to the escape trails that I was to follow from then on for the 
next four years without a moment's break. 

My records show that more than 300 would-be escapers were 
caught in the act, often the same people trying again and again. On 


about 130 occasions cscapers actually got out of the castle or got 
away when in transit locally. The number who got clear away over 
the frontier and were never retaken was thirty, breaking down into 
six Dutch, fourteen French, nine British and one Polish, as near as I 
can remember. I was not in complete charge of security until 1944, 
but until then had, of course, to contribute what I knew or could 
find out or could work out, to our camp security office. 

We held security conferences whenever an escape took place and 
at least every week as a matter of routine. Practically every routine 
occasion was an escape occasion, and one way and another every 
escape was an occasion in itself. In fact I claim some honour for 
having been part of a team, a very amateur team I admit, of a . 
German "holding" force whose clumsy efforts were nonetheless so 
successful that the experts had to lay on absolute masterpieces of 
escape to beat us. 

The stage for this battle between the two security systems, German 
and Allied, was in some way set to the advantage of the prisoners. 
The PWs were, first of all, experienced in the job. In addition, our 
hands were somewhat tied by our not very practical superiors at 
Army Command HQ, in Dresden and, above them, in Berlin* We 
made things better for the prisoners by cramming Colditz with new 
escape material week after week. Each new arrival brought with him 
knowledge of new methods of escape, acquaintance with fresh 
routes, knowledge of extra documents required, checks likely to be 
made at railway junctions and pn trains, and so on. In this castle, 
the prisoners had the interior lines of communication and the 
initiative as well. Our effectives, real effectives, were hardly a dozen, 
while their team ran into hundreds. 

No sooner did Twelfth Night bring down the decorations in the 
British quarters than the battle began, on the cold front. Our 
Kommandant decided on a New Year visit to the prisoners* quarters. 
It was January gth, and still extremely cold. The sun did not get 
over the roofs into the prisoners* yard until a good ten o'clock in the 
shorter days of winter, but even then many were glad to be living in 
a stone building and not a wooden barracks, which is always damp 
and cold. There weren't many people walking in the yard that 
morning. I went in with the Kommandant and called out "Ach- 
tung!" The circulation stopped for a moment. That was the drill. 
Everyone looked towards our Colonel for a second, he saluted, the 
circle moved round again. 

We went into the kitchen. There was the British kitchen officer, 
Captain Barry. He did his official job there very well his unofficial 
one (the use of the kitchen for escape purposes) he did even better. 
It was through the windows on the outer side of the kitchen looking 


to the German courtyard that four British officers got away in 1942 
(as I learnt nearly fifteen years afterwards).* 

From there we went out into the yard again, and up the circular 
staircase in the south-east corner. On the first floor were the Polish 
officers. "Achtung!" I shouted. Most of the officers were lying on 
their beds reading, smoking, thinking. They all got up slowly, 
unwillingly, all except Lieut. Siewert, who stayed on his bed. I took 
his name. On the evening parade I read out the Kommandant's 
sentence of five days' arrest, for failing to acknowledge a superior 
officer. This punishment was normal for officers in the Germap. 
Army, and military prisoners were all subject to our own Milit&rstrqf- 
gesetzbuch (corresponding to Queen's Regulations). The sentence was 
read out also to the French, Belgian and British companies in their 
own language. We were all very formal in those days. The prisoners 
remained unimpressed by this disciplinary action sometimes it 
was warmer in the cells ! 

Later on, to jump ahead a few months, when the camp got 
crowded,' people actually asked to go in the cells to "get away from 
it all". I told them we really could not arrange rest cures for them, 
there was a war on. However, it wasn't difficult for them to "swing" 
a few days in arrest. They only had to write abusive things about us 
in their letters home or turn up late for parade. That was always 
worth a few days' punishment. Of course, arrest became rather a 
farce in the end. I did not mind putting people away who had 
committed disciplinary offences. Sometimes it was a good thing for 
them their psychology required that they should get on their own 
for a short while. Prisoners get obsessions. We didn't want them to 
go mad. But cells began to be used as a means of bribery and 
corruption of the guards, as a means of escape, and people even 
began to feign insanity in the hope of escaping during trips for 
medical treatment. All the time we were balancing between 
security and humanity though some would roll their eyes to heaven 
that I should write this. 

So five days' arrest meant nothing to any Pole, and when I 
dismissed the parade, his compatriots rushed to their comrade, 
shook his hand, embraced him, and then, gathering round, threw 
him again and again into the air, catching him as he fell, as the 
Poles do with those they approve of. 

I argued a moment with the Polish captain, "If you want us 
to treat you coirectly under the Geneva Convention you must 
behave correctly too." 

He destroyed my argument: <f You Germans don't apply the 
Geneva Convention to us. You say Poland as a country no longer 
escists. You don't even allow us a Protecting Power to look after our 

* Sec The Coldi* Story by P. R. Reid. 


interests as prisoners. The Swiss visit the British every three months. 
The French have their Scapini Committee to look after them, and 
they have a Government you recognize, even though it's P6tain. 
The Dutch are looked after by the Swedish Government. But we, 
the Poles, are no one's children." 

I saw they had it all thought out, and were going to make a thing 
of it. Sure enough, a week later, the same incident occurred again. 
Again Siewert got "arrest". The third time it happened he got a 
court-martial in Leipzig. We allowed him a local lawyer, a man from 
the town, who was a prisoner-of-war in England during the first war. 
He claimed to have been well treated, and was always willing to do 
something in return for this. 

In due course the prosecution at Leipzig demanded a heavy 
penalty. Here was a Pole, a member of an undisciplined and savage 
race, so they said, deliberately insulting a superior officer. An 
example must be made. The defence was that the prisoner did not 
understand the meaning of the word "Achtung" ! He got a year's 
imprisonment, and appealed. Colonel-General Von Beck, com- 
manding our Reserve Army, allowed the appeal and Lieut. Siewert 
returned to Colditz a free man. Tremendous enthusiasm among all 
the prisoners in the camp! The Polish Senior Officer, Admiral 
Unrug, who in the First World War was a U-boat commander in 
the German Navy, protested against the insults to the Polish people 
uttered in Court. Our Kommandant tried in vain to get the appeal 
verdict upset. His failure made things worse, for the result was that 
saluting practically died out in Colditz, as between the Germans and 
prisoners, until our famous doctor tried to revive the practice a year 
later. The only occasions when we got a salute were when we took 
the parades, or roll-calls, each day. At the most, on other occasions, 
officers would stand up slowly when we entered quarters or reluc- 
tantly take their hands out of their pockets or their pipes out of their 
mouths when we spoke to them. We did not go into their quarters 
very often, and we tried to speak, as far as possible, only to the senior 
officers of the different companies, and through their official 
interpreters. But over this incident we lost face. 

This Court decision in 1941 made things very difficult for us in 
Colditz. Not only was it a rebuff for the Kommandant, who had 
previously given orders that offenders in the matter of saluting were 
to be reported and punished, but it showed up differences of opinion 
among the four of us Germans who, as Lager Officers (Camp 
Officers or Duty Officers) were in constant contact with the 
prisoners, taking daily parades, attending searches, sorting out 
innumerable requests, inspecting the quarters and so on. The 
standard of discipline was ours to shape the Kommandant's to 


Unfortunately, we had two standards among the four of us. I was 
then LO 3 (Lager Officer 3). LO i was a lively character, fond of 
battle, fond of life, very much of a joker, fond of the bottle too, and 
the only one who the English agreed had a sense of humour. 
Sometimes he would refer to them as "the etceteras*'. He would give 
out notices on parade as applying to the French, the Belgians, the 
Dutch, the Poles "undso wetter" ("and so on"). The British put on a 
variety show in the theatre once by the "und so welter" group. This 
officer didn't worry much about discipline in the strict military 
sense. He had been a schoolmaster like myself, and thought he knew 
how to handle the "bad boys" camp. 

LO 2 was a cavalry captain. He would blow up at the least 
provocation, as the prisoners very soon discovered, and go literally 
blue in the face in a moment. He suffered from mortally high blood 
pressure, and was all for violence against his charges. 

As for me, LO 3, 1 was not for peace at any price, but rather felt 
again in the position that I knew so well, of a teacher dealing with a 
lot of naughty boys. I knew that the first aim of an unruly class is to 
make the person in charge angry, whatever the consequences, and I 
also knew that if I lost my temper in the position I held in Golditz I 
had lost the day and possibly the years to come as well. I told the 
British Senior Officer once, "I will never allow you gentlemen the 
honour of getting me rattled. Correct behaviour under the Conven- 
tion or under our own disciplinary code is my line. Anything your 
officers do to offend, I shall report the fact. What happens then is not 
my affair." I was provoked beyond belief time and again for four 
years on end by die hotheads among hundreds of officers of all 
nationalities, ages, rank and background. Time and again, I would 
start to react and then control myself. It is not easy to put up with 
active insolence, but dumb insolence can sometimes b even harder 
to bear. 

LO 4 was much of my opinion, but there was no doubt of it, we 
four were not a harmonious team. 

At least in Colditz it was true to say that there was never a dull 
moment. As time went on, we could see the pattern, and it was one 
that we had imposed upon us, whereas it was we who should have 
been the ones to call the tune rather than follow it. The prisoners 
and we were engaged in an unending game of leapfrog. First we 
were ahead with our security barriers, then they were, scheming 
successfully round them. Everything the PWs did or said or thought 
was planned to give them an advantage, an advantage either 
immediate, or several jumps ahead. 

If, as a result of an escape or an attempt to escape, we altered our 
arrangements or introduced some new plan, they would catch on 
quicker than our own people who had, after all, other things to 


think about than their hours of duty up at the castle. Most of the 
prisoners were "on duty" the whole time; they had no other life. 

Another major security difficulty concerned our regular camp 
staff, particularly NCOs. The longer these stayed in the castle, the 
better they got to know the prisoners and their methods. But they 
became all the more subject to bribery with cigarettes, chocolate or 
coffee, and to the softening effect of familiarity and simple politeness 
between themselves and the prisoners. Another weakness was the 
disadvantage that any German of lower rank feels in dealing with 
officers, of whatever nationality. And if we replaced these NGOs 
it took the new arrivals months to learn the tricks of the trade, 
during which time the prisoners took full advantage of their 

All our NCOs at Colditz had nicknames, knew it and were rather 
amused by it. There was Cheese he was a little man, what we call 
"three cheeses high" (Dretkasehoch) ; the Policeman; Hiawatha, who 
rather fancied himself until he discovered that his mate was known 
as Minnehaha; Big Bum; Auntie, the Quartermaster he was in 
Colditz right to the end; Fouine (the French word for a ferret) 
known to the English as Dixon Hawke, very clever at smelling out 
tunnels ; Mussolini, our staff sergeant in charge of the orderlies, an 
old soldier from the first war who disliked all officers, even his own ! 

These men, and of course the general mass of the guards, could 
not fail to be impressed by the active life of the castle, and more so by 
the tricks the prisoners got up to, but most of all by the escape 
successes they managed to register. All this reflected on us, their own 
officers, who were shown up as that much incompetent and helpless. 

In February 1941 we began to fill up. A couple of hundred French 
officers arrived under General Le Bleu, who made no secret of his 
dislike of all things "boche". In March we were presented with sixty 
Dutch officers, many from the East Indies of mixed blood. They were 
model prisoners. They had no orderlies of their own, but kept their 
quarters clean themselves. Their discipline was faultless, their 
behaviour on parade exemplary, by which, as we shall see, they were 
able to profit. They dressed smartly at all times, too. The Poles 
behaved similarly, though they had not the uniforms for a smart 

But the French and the British ! On parade in pyjamas, unshaven, 
slopping about in dogs and slippers, smoking, reading books, 
wearing the first assortment of garments that came to hand when 
they got out of bed, just asking to be ridiculed. They insisted on 
distinguishing between "parades" as on the King's birthday, when 
they turned out unrecognizably smart, and the daily "roll-calls" we 
held to count them. Very quickly we saw through what was only 


superficially slipshod, though sometimes they all behaved whole- 
heartedly like urchins. 

One day that spring, four British were missing from parade. We 
suspected that they hadn't really escaped. We did not warn the 
local security authorities but held our hands. In the afternoon we 
played a trick. We let off a round or two in the-park below the castle. 
LO i and I went into the prisoners' yard and were asked what the 
shooting was about. We told them we had just shot one of the four, 
who had attempted to escape in the castle grounds. I watched their 
faces they all broke into grins. Later that day, a solemn procession 
took place in the courtyard. I had a call from the guardroom that 
something was up, and went in to see. It was a mock funeral proces- 
sion. Four officers carried the coffin a clothes cupboard. It was 
covered with the Union Jack. The priest followed. Medals were 
carried on a pillow. Relatives followed in deep mourning. The wife, 
of course, wore a Mlt. Candle-bearers were in attendance too. 

"What's all this?" we asked. 

"We're burying the officer you've just shot." 

We looked into the coffin and there was one of the missing four ! 

They all turned up at the next parade. They had been hidden in 
the roof on the off-chance of getting away, but gave up in the end. 
But we had the last laugh that evening when LO i announced that, 
in future, interments could take place only on receipt of twenty-four 
hours' notice! 

Of course, we on the spot always got into the worst trouble over 
escapes from above, and the prisoners knew it. We have a phrase in 
German, "It's the one at the bottom that gets bitten". Anything 
that rattled us was a point in the prisoners' favour. My cap was 
stolen once during an interview in the prisoners' quarters, I sent an 
orderly to our Mess to bring another. I couldn't leave the yard 
without one. The jeers would have been too much, and as for my 
guardroom, what would they think ! I put on the new cap, went out 
across the yard, looked up, and there was my cap up near a window. 
I got it back. But I was sure that someone had been taking measure- 
ments and copying the badge on the front while the cap was out of 
my hands. 

Water bombs were another irritation to us. These were made but 
of newspapers folded into cocked hats. As they fell they sprang open 
and the water inside splashed on us below. 

Snowballs were inevitable in the winter and fairly harmless, but I 
was narrowly missed once by a very large one with a piece of bottle- 
glass inside it. Razor blades in the pig-swill we also had to contend 
with. We could have cut the prisoners' meat ration down in retalia- 
tion for our pig casualties, but we argued them out of that trick. 
How far they would have gone, or perhaps did go, if given the 


opportunity, I cannot say. We found a guard one morning, dead, in 
the parcel office, his revolver in his hand, shot in the head. We had 
no option but to assume suicide. Tools, clothing, cement, wire, wood, 
lead, plaster of pans, nails, anything and everything of any use or 
even of no immediate use, or even of only speculative use, were 
stolen by the prisoners on sight. If they weren't stolen, then, as the 
war drew on, these things were bribed out of our sentries or off 
civilian workers who were always about the camp doing repairs. 
Any piece of metal was always useful. Strong wire can be used to 
open simple locks. When one of the first British parties arrived, from 
Laufen in November 1940, we found the attic door over their 
temporary quarters had been opened the very first night. Un- 
occupied rooms were obviously best for working at tunnels. They 
were rarely inspected those early days. 

In the British senior quarters we found wet clothing one day. 
The lock into the showerbaths had been picked. We replaced it. A 
few days later we found the head of a broken-off home-made key 
in the lock. That was on February igth, 1941. 

From the clandestine to the evident from the evidence to the 
first culprit. On March i8th our NCO, whom I shall call throughout 
by his British nickname "Dixon Hawke" or by his French one, La 
Fouine (the Ferret), found two of the French officers, Lieuts. 
Gazaumayou and Faille, at the bottom of a ten-foot hole they had 
dug with a piece of bed-frame, below the dock tower in the north- 
west corner of the yard. They had fixed up a hoist to haul the rubble 
part way up inside the tower for eventual disposal in the attic. The 
Security Officer ordered the doors into this tower to be bricked up. 
There was one access door on each of the three floors. We shall see 
what a tremendous asset the prisoners found this "security" measure 
to be, nearly a year later. 

In the same month two Polish officers were caught at night sawing 
through the bars of the British canteen window in the south-east 
corner of the yard. We suspected that canteen. We put an extra 
padlock on the door. We lifted up a cover in the floor and examined 
the drain underneath. It was dry and bricked up, with no signs of 
any "workings". We cemented this cover in. (The prisoners loosened 
it before the cement had set, as we discovered several months later.) 

It looked to me, now that spring was approaching, as if the 
balloon was going up. 


The First Successful Escape 

AFTER THE afternoon parade on April i2th, 1941, a French officer 
was missing the first prisoner had got right away from Colditz. 
We checked the faces of the whole camp with their identity cards 
a long and difficult business. The photos on these were a year old at 
least. Many officers wore beards now, or just moustaches then. They 
were not all easily recognizable. 

At last we got to the capital "Ls", and Lieut Leray was the one 
who was not there. LO i made his report even he could find 
nothing amusing to say about the "Qicke gigam" (thick cigar) or 
"rocket", which he got from the Kommandant. Generalkommando 
Dresden came into the affair. Their Abwehrstelle 4 (Security 4) 
asked, "When did the prisoner escape, how did he get out, what 
dothes did he wear?" We didn't know. We gave the Leipzig police 
a description, and said that as the man was French he would 
probably go south-west. The OKW in Berlin wanted to know: 
"How did the officer escape? Who was responsible, had he been 
punished how? What had we done to stop similar escapes in 
future?" We couldn't answer all of this. DO i was in sore disgrace. 

We assumed that Leray had climbed up on the roof and down a 
lightning conductor on the outer walls of the buildings,- out of sight 
of the sentries somewhere. We wired up parts of the roof and the 
chimneys. We rigged up more and stronger searchlights. Even then 
the prisoners profited by this, two years later. 

On the last day of April we held our monthly party in the Mess. 
This time we had as guests Partei officials, plus the local Mayor, 
and some of his council from the town. The party was protracted. 
LO i was below par. He realized that the serious business of 
escaping was upon us. 

Tilings everywhere were hotting up. The war was shifting from 
the west front to the east Greece, Crete, and then Russia were to 
be the sequence. 

LO i foiled to show up the morning after the party. The Kom- 
mandant didn't miss him at first, but he was still absent at lunch. 

Next day the blow fell. "All in the Mess at 12 o'clock" was the 
order. There, the Kommandant pulled out every stop. "We've all 
been made fools of by one prisoner over this escape. Now some of you 
are making fools of yourselves. The prisoners are playing with us. 
We are responsible for them, and for keeping them confined, yet 


no one can say when, where or how this French officer got away. 
An escaped prisoner is a breach in our national security defences, 
as well as in our Colditz ones, a double danger to us all. Pay more 
attention to your duties. Then you may have something worth 
celebrating. From now on, no drinks after midnight in the Mess, 
Lights Out i a.m." 

We were still suspicious of the British canteen. One of our NCOs 
said he had gone into the yard at night and had seen a movement of 
some kind over in that corner. Unfortunately he was short-sighted. 
(The prisoners soon found that out too.) He couldn't be too sure 
what he*d seen, or whom. 

Had the prisoners made keys to unlock the doors at the foot of their 
staircases, that we locked each night? It became more and more 
evident as time went on, that no lock at all in Colditz really served 
its purpose. We kept finding people in what should have been barred 
or locked-off rooms, from which bit by bit we noticed all the light 
fittings disappear. Blankets vanished from the attics. Nothing was 
safe. We did not know the expert lock-pickers at the time, but later 
we discovered that the chief "burglars" were Lieut. Surmanowicz, 
Lieut. O'Hara, Lieut. Guigues, and the Dutch officer Captain van 
Doorninck, one from each of the main national groups. 

At that time, the spring of 1941, the castle was far from full. There 
were some whole floors empty of occupanter-of all permanent 
occupants, that is. The prisoners then occupied three floors on each 
of two sides of their courtyard. On the third or north side was the 
chapel with the two floors above it empty that year. The fourth or 
south side had only ground floor buildings, and at the back of these 
rose the sheer wall of the north side of our four-storey German 
courtyard. As a counter-measure to these break-ins we decided to 
move all unused equipment and furniture out of the unused 
quarters in the prison yard, and deprive the prisoners of this source 
of raw escape material. Naturally they turned this operation to their 
own advantage. 

Itwas May 8th, 1941. As from ioa,m. straw mattresses were brought 
down in dozens from an attic store by the orderlies, loaded on to a 
cart, taken down to the town, and dumped in a skittle alley. Eleven- 
thirty to i o'clock was the lunch break. Then on with the job. 

About 2 o'clock the German NCO supervising the transport 
stepped back against a mattress lying on the ground. He felt 
something hard. He tapped it with his foot and then opened it up. 
Inside was Lieut. Hyde-Thomson, in civilian clothes. The Security 
Officer was informed and ordered a Sonderappell (special roll-call). 
The bugler blew up our "dose fighting" call, "Kartoffelsufp"* 

* "Kartqff*ln#p, Kartoffdsupp, Dm gan&n Tag, Kartqtfttsttfp" (Potato soup, 
potato soup, all ruddy day, potato soup !). 


(Potato Soup), for an immediate fall-in! One British officer was 
missing, Lieut, Peter Allan. We went down town to the skittle alley. 
There we found an empty palliasse and an open window. The bird 
had flown. 

Some days later we had a telegram from the Vienna Police 
Headquarters. They were holding Allan. Allan spoke good German, 
having studied at Jena before the war. How he got to Vienna, we 
never really discovered. He got lifts apparently, as his German was 
so good, and walked a lot of the way as well. He arrived exhausted 
in Vienna after about ten days* going and went to see the US 
Consul. Some of the staff at the Consulate were German. Allan 
asked to see the Consul. His American accent wasn't as good as his 
German one. A German secretary seemed suspicious. 

The Consul was in a spot. Was Allan a stool pigeon? Was he 
really an American? "I am an escaped British officer. I want to get 
to Budapest, neutral territory. Put fifty marks on the desk and look 
the other way." The Consul did look the other way, and said, "I am 
afraid the United States is neutral too. We can't assist you in any 
way." Allan had reached the end of his tether so near and yet 
so far. "Goddam the mq.n I'* 

He went out and was caught soon afterwards. 

At Colditz, Lieut. Allan's escape resulted in strict control of all 
vehicles entering and leaving the prisoners' courtyard. Any wagon 
with a load in bulk was to be probed with a bayonet preferably 
a French one, which was extra long. As most of our Home Guard 
who did guard duty at the castle were armed with captured French 
rifles this requirement caused no difficulty, provided they did their 
job properly. 

There still seemed little we could do about the false keys that 
were being made to fit any and every type of lock we used, even 
Zeiss Ikon four-way locks. 

One day two British officers were caught in a room which was 
normally kept locked. It was still locked when we discovered them 
inside. Captain Reid and Flight-Lieut. Wardle had been let in and 
then locked in by one of the others. "What are you doing here?" 
"Physical jerks, by numbers. We chose this place because it was 

We locked them in again and sent for the LO i. When we got 
back the two were out in the yard and the door was off its hinges, 
being solemnly carried round to great cheers from all about 

"We protest," ran the note presented to us, "against our in- 

1 carceration without charge or trial. This is a breach of the German 

military disciplinary code and therefore of the Geneva Convention.'* 

In the end we agreed that the door should be replaced and no 
more said, except what we knew to be the purely formal question 


from us, "How did you open the door?" They gave us a piece of bent 
wire in reply but we'd seen that before, and anyway it was only a 
blind. Any old piece of wire was always produced as evidence of how 
locks were picked! 

A few days after the "mattress" affair came an escape attempt that 
is by all accounts a mystery to this day. Two Polish officers were 
doing time in the courtyard cells. There were very few arrest cells 
actually in the castle four stood in one corner of the prisoners' 
yard, close to the gate. One of these looked out on to the west terrace, 
the other three overlooked the yard on ground floor level, but a 
few steps up, as the yard sloped down to the gate. They had their 
windows painted over. All the cell doors gave on to a corridor and 
at the end of this was the main door out to the yard steps. All doors 
were locked and bolted day and night Lieut. Surmanowicz was 
in one cell, Lieut. Chmiel in another. Somehow, during the night, 
Surmanowicz got out of his cell, released Chmiel from his and then 
opened the door from the cells to the yard. From the Polish quarters 
three floors up, a rope was lowered, and the two were hauled up 
one at a time on to a ledge. They sidled along the ledge to a gutter, 
got up on the roof of the guardhouse, hauling the rope after them, 
and here, through a window, they climbed down into an attic. They 
then hung the rope out of the front window and started to slide 
down. Surmanowicz wore rubber soles, but unfortunately Chmiel 
had nails in his boots which scraped down the wall. A guard heard 
them and they were caught in mid-air. 

As a result of this attempt, we stationed a sentry permanently 
inside the prisoners' courtyard day and night. This western face of 
the castle had plainly been the object of much thought among the 
prisoners, for two days later came another attempt, from the 
Archway as it was called. This lay outside the prisoners' courtyard. 
You passed under it between our German yard and the small 
approach yard, below the PW Senior Officers' quarters. The 
approach was to the prisoners' gate and the guardroom just beside it. 
Prisoners got into the archway cells only when the four yard 
punishment cells were occupied. There were three cells under the 
archway and they looked on to the outer side of the castle. The 
ground beneath dropped down about forty feet to a terrace garden. 
From the edge of this garden, about fifty yards out, towards the 
valley, there was another drop down a steep bank to the backs of 
houses in the town at street level. 

Lieut. Hyde-Thomson was doing time for his "mattress" attempt 
of May 8th, In the cell next door to him was the Polish Lieut. Just. 
How he came to be there is a story of its own. 

Two Polish lieutenants, Just and Bednarski, succfeeded in con- 
vincing our camp doctor, with the backing of their own man, that 


they required operative treatment. He sent them to Konigswartha, 
near Bautzen. On the night of April sth, the day before they were to 
be operated upon, both got away. Lieut. Just got on a goods train, 
but found it going the wrong way. He jumped off safely, and 
boarded one going back to Bautzen. Feeling he had been spotted 
he jumped off a second time, but on this occasion he hit his head on 
the ground and lay unconscious in the rain all night. He gave 
himself up next day and returned to Colditz and the archway odl 
next to Hyde-Thomson. In due course, these two opened a door 
between their cells, and on the night of May 13th got up to the 
window with a rope made of bed-sheets. It wasn't long enough. 
Hyde-Thomson held one end and Just slid as far as he could and 
then dropped to the ground. He crossed the garden, climbed 
through the wire fence and disappeared into the town. He was 
caught three days later at Stiihlingen near Basel, following the 
railway line to the Swiss frontier. They took hint to a hospital at 
Villingen, in the Black Forest. A month later he got away again, and 
was caught swimming the Rhine below Basel, at night. He came to a 
barbed wire barrier in the water and tried to dive under it. An alarm 
went off, searchlights came on, and a boat brought Just ashore, and 
so back to Colditz again, for three weeks' more cells. As a security 
measure, we put a kind of cat's cradle of wire under the window 
of the archway cell he got out of. 

To follow up the fate of Lieut. Bednarski who had got away with 
Lieut. Just from Konigswartha in April. This officer had much 
better luck. He got as far as Cracow, where he should certainly 
have been quite safe. Although our people could not discover all the 
underground network in that city, we were able to get our hands on 
part of it. And so the Gestapo picked up Bednarski and in due course 
returned him to us as an officer prisoner-of-war. Naturally he came 
back with the most valuable information of all kinds from which his 
fellow-prisoners were able to benefit. 

Now back to the British canteen at Colditz, still the object of our 
suspicions, and still the month of May. The prisoners were indeed 
leading us a merry dance. A sentry reported that he'd been offered 
700 marks (about 50) to keep his eyes shut some night to be 
specified, while on duty at guard post No. 9 outside the canteen. 
There was another terrace at this point, which went out about 
fifteen yards from the window, and the sentry's beat was below it 
The ground, as I have said, was terraced all round the Schloss 
buildings. The top terraces were dose up against the walls, and left 
a belt of dead ground outside our sentries' range of view all round the 
three sides of the prisoners' buildings. Sentry beats were everywhere 
at the foot of these first terrace projections. There was a small lawn 
on the terrace above post No. 9, lit at night by searchlights. 


Seven hundred marks was a lot of money. How on earth had the 
PWs got hold of it? 

We held a security meeting. The money was obviously being 
smuggled in. How, we found later. It came in in parcels, and also 
on the persons of new arrivals. A British officer once boasted to me 
that the British "bank" held over 2,000 marks in real German 
money, hidden away. It took me nearly four years to find this 
treasure, but I got it in the end. This was 1941, however, when 
"hot" money was still "tight". 

We told this particular sentry to carry on with the game and keep 
us informed. In due course he got 100 marks as the first part of his 
bribe. Whitsun was coming. Staff were going on leave, and tension 
would be relaxed. The guard was due on duty again between 
9 and n o'clock the Thursday evening before Whitsun, May agth. 
It was then light till 8 o'clock. Two days before, the guard was 
told, "From now on keep your head down when on duty." He passed 
this .on to us and we made our preparations. 

The canteen. Somewhere near there they were going to break 
out, but where? From below? Impossible. The inside drain cover 
in the canteen floor was sealed. From above? Not in the search- 
lights. Would they fuse the lights and come down a rope in the dark? 
Would they get out of the canteen by one of the windows? The 
guard had been assured that there would be no traces after the 
escape, so he couldn't possibly be suspected. How "Zum Donner- 
wetter" were they going to get out? We thought and talked and felt 
very foolish. That we should have to wait on the prisoners for a line 
of action 1 

All duty officers and a number of guards concentrated in a room 
in the Kommandantur building, where our north-east corner backed 
on to the canteen corner of the prisoners' yard. The door on to the 
grass terrace outside this damned canteen was on our side of the 
join in the two yards. We unlocked it quietly. An NCO and ten men 
were held ready in the guardroom outside the prisoners' gate, at the 
end of the approach yard. A phone call on our internal exchange 
would rush them to any part of the castle we specified. We decided 
the break would definitely be attempted on the Thursday. That 
evening we must have been quite as keyed up as the prisoners. We 
took the evening parade under the strictest orders to give no hint 
that we knew or suspected anything. Everything seemed quite 
normal. Everyone was present. Were they perhaps more quiet than 
usual? The parade was dismissed. We left the yard and took up our 
positions at the danger spot. We checked back by phone to the 
guardroom. They knew their orders. The tension among us was 
terrific. It was at moments like these that the hotheads could make 


"No firing without orders from an officer.' 5 "Ja wohl, Herr 

Twilight fell and the lights came on. The stage was set, we waited 
in the wings for the actors. Sentry No. 9 was pacing up and down. 
We couldn't see him as he was in dead ground below the level of the 
terrace. He was an absolute mass of nerves, and so the one most 
likely to start shooting. We were the ones most likely to catch it, too. 
We waited and watched. But what should we watch? Where to 
focus? We blinked at every sound. Our eyes watered with the strain. 
We watched. Suddenly came a movement on the grass. Was it a 
moth over the searchlight that flicked a shadow over the lawn? 
Now we could focus. A line appeared a break. A patch of grass 
started to move, upward. LO i made a sign, "Wait !" A square of 
turf rose straight up out of the ground, held in a wooden frame, 
with legs, which now showed themselves. Then a man's hands and 
arms followed, pushing up the turf and frame by the legs. Then the 
frame was stood aside, and up came the British Captain Reid ! 

"Heraus" and we were on him! One man to the phone told 
the guard to occupy the canteen at once. Anyone in there to remain 
there. "Los!" We caught ten British and two Polish officers in the 
canteen tunnel, including the British Senior Officer, Colonel 
German. All were in civilian clothes, all had passes; 85 marks in 
real money was found on the party, and 150 Ib. weight of provisions, 
all Red Cross food, mostly in tins, plus chocolate and biscuits. What 
a haul for us ! 

The prisoners had loosened the drain cover in the canteen and 
picked their way along the drain through the side wall. For night 
working this involved picking the locks of two doors, from their own 
staircase into the yard, and from the yard into the canteen. 

Security counter-measures followed. We began to change the 
sentries at irregular times. We saw to it that the same men did not 
return each time to the same post. We aimed to break any rhythm 
in guard postings that might give the prisoners a fixed person or 
fixed timing of any kind on which they could work. 

And the guard? He kept his 100 marks. He got extra leave, 
promotion, and the War Service Cross. It was worth it 

This was our first big success, and due solely to the loyalty of one 
of our men. 


Skirmishings and Exchanges 

THE YEAR was 1941, and the Russian campaign had not yet 
started. A year later, I began to wonder if our guard company 
was 100 per cent reliable any more. By then, 1942, the tables had 
begun to turn. Belts were tightening, bombs were falling and spirits 
and hopes along with them; German speakers among the prisoners 
spread propaganda unceasingly among the guards, and the tighter 
we sought to draw the net of supervision, the closer came the 
contacts on whom they could work. Lieut. Allan was always busy 
this way, and so were Howard Gee and Giles Romilly, two 
civilians whom the OKW had ordered to Colditz in 1942.* Romilly 
was for a long time in a class of his own. He was the first of the 
"Prominmte" or hostages as they were intended to be. He came 
at the end of 1941, from a civilian internment camp. As a nephew of 
Sir Winston Churchill he was a valuable prize. The OKW thought 
that Colditz was the safest place for him. Both he and Gee had set 
a very bad example to their fellow-internees. Many were of Anglo- 
German birth, or of Anglo-French descent. All had British passports, 
but on some occasions their loyalties were rather divided. These two 
had both escaped at different times from Wttlzburg Castle in 
Bavaria, and on recapture were removed to Colditz via Silesia 
before the infection spread. Both spoke good German. 

Three days after we had foiled the mass escape from the canteen 
tunnel, a French officer was missing, Lieut Colin. How he got out, 
we again did not know, any more than in the case of Lieut Leray 
who had vanished in April. 

We suspected the park. 

The afternoon exercise at Colditz, the walk in the park, was the 

* I was inOolditz on two separate occasions, arriving first in 1940 as orderly 
to a group of British officers who had escaped by tunnel from a c^p at Laufen 
near Salzburg At the time I was rated as an o*er rank prisoner, ha^bS 
pcked up m Oslo with several other Englishmen. Ine GeLms did not beUe 

S^iT S1TTI ff F Und whcre wc ** been voluntww ** *e 

Furnish International Brigade. They thought that we were British troops in 
cmban dotte, waiting for the British invasion of Norway, which they nTjxS 
12 "^ f** CXChangeS ** to ** fatc ***** Deserve. 



weakest point in all our arrangements. We had the prisoners, as it 
were, bricked into their yard, barred in as well, with bars on all the 
windows. Since Surmanowicz' and Chmiel's attempt, there was 
now a sentry on duty day and night in the yard itself, and there were 
searchlights and sentries and naturally barbed wire aprons seven 
feet high all round the outside of the building. Yet we were com- 
pelled by our own High Command, in spite of our Kommandant's 
protests, to let these men out of this security ring every afternoon 
for two hours, so that they might have some fresh air and exercise, 
under the provisions of the Geneva Convention. It took nearly 
fifteen minutes to walk down into the ravine behind the castle, on 
the east side, where we had wired up an enclosure about 200 yards 
by 50, adjoining a smaller fenced and wired "sheep pen", as the 
French called it, where the prisoners played football among the 
trees. All round the full perimeter of sheep pen and larger extension 
we posted sentries during the exercise period. We had a couple of 
dogs there as well. Yet the escape incidents that arose during these 
walks were hair-raising, in number illustrating (by contrast) the 
first principle that prisoners should at all costs be kept static. The 
second principle unfortunately is that they should always be kept 
on the move (before they have time to break their tunnels, and so 
that they lose all their dumps of material and money). The time 
lapse between the application of these contrary principles is the 
vital factor. Unfortunately at Colditz the paradox was never 
resolved. We kept the prisoners static in their courtyard, occasion- 
ally moving them to another floor or side of the yard, and yet every 
day we let them right out of this built-in prison, under guard, and 
time and again someone slipped the leash and got away. 

The drill for the walk was as follows. If thirty officers could be 
found to make up that minimum number, we let them 6ut of their 
yard and formed up in the approach yard between the guardroom 
and the archway. They were counted, and the figure jentered in the 
book. Guards formed up each side of the party, with an NCO of 
ours at one end, and perhaps an officer at the other, and sometimes 
a police dog as well. Right turn, quick march, under the archway, 
then half left across the German yard. Turn right, through the gate 
out of our yard on to a roadway and then left, off the road in 150 
yards, right down a steep path, with a hairpin back to the stream 
at the bottom of the little valley, right, over the bridge into the 
wired enclosure and halt! Between the roadway above, and the 
stream fifty feet below, the path ran close by some buildings. There 
were two gates on this path, one where you started down on it in a 
fence on the left of the roadway, the other a little way down at the 
end of the buildings. Sentries were unsighted at or* or two spots. 

The column of walkers always trailed and slopped along. Some 


walked fast, some slow. No one kept step with anyone else. Certainly 
no one ever marched ! 

In the small pen at one end of the main enclosure down in the 
park, there was a summer-house, open-sided. The far end of this pen 
was bounded by the park wall, about ten feet high. It ran down the 
side of the valley, across the stream and forty yards of flat, and then 
up the other slope. 

On arrival in the park the party halted. A second count was then 
taken. The guards next marched to positions outside the wire all 
round the enclosed area, at thirty-yard intervals, and then the 
prisoners could move round as they wished, inside the six-foot 
barbed wire fence and inside the warning wire about a yard in 
from this, a foot or so from the ground. It was forbidden to step 
over this wire and approach the main fence on a threat of being shot. 

After an hour or so, the whistle called all together. The count 
was taken a third time. Then the guards were brought in from 
outside the wire, and the party marched or shambled back up to 
the castle. The dogs meanwhile had a sniff around the enclosures 
in case the count had been faked. Back up outside the yard gate a 
fourth count took place, and if all was correct the prisoners were let 
back into their cage. 

Was this confounded walk necessary? 

The Geneva Convention prescribes fresh air every day for the 
prisoners. Well, it could be said that they had fresh air in their 
courtyard, which was about 45 by 35 yards in size. How fresh? 
there's nothing in the Convention on that point. Nor does the 
Convention say how much space for exercise must be allowed per 
head. It says nothing about grass or trees, as the Kommandant 
pointed out to protesting senior officers when he succeeded in 
stopping the walk. The Convention says nothing as to the sun having 
to shine either it just says "fresh air must be available". We 
contended that the prisoners, therefore, were getting something as 
an extra, a concession, when, that first winter, we let them go down 
to the park for exercise. And when there was trouble we stopped 
this concession, as a punishment. The prisoners then complained : 
(a) they had lost their access to fresh air; (b) they were being 
collectively punished both breaches of the Convention. The 
protecting power for the British, that is the Swiss Government, took 
the matter to our High Command. Our Kommandant stated when 
asked to report that as it was difficult to get even 20 per cent of the 
prisoners on occasion to attend for the walk, and usually only about 
5 per cent could be found willing to go, there was no great demand 
shown for this "right". Officers used to beg their friends to come out 
and make up tie number. But the OKW decided that the walk was 
a right which must continue, and was not a concession. We lost a 


point there and so found ourselves with a problem on our hands 
that needed as much attention for two hours daily, involving at 
the most 40 per cent of the prisoners, as the whole camp required 
for the twenty-four hours day and night together, for anything up 
to 600 of them. 

I have described the drill for the park walk as we laid it down for 
our charges, but these devils disposed otherwise. The assembly 
before the march down resembled on occasions a crowd going on an 
excursion to the Black Forest. They dribbled out of the yard 
through the gate one by one, they went back in to call to a comrade 
to join them. There was always a last-minute rush before the gate 
closed. The babble and Babel of tongues reminded one of a parrot- 
house. The variety of uniforms and undress was certainly distracting 
some would go down in shorts to play football, some to run, some 
to swing on the bar which we kindly provided. Some went to read 
quietly in a corner, some to walk, some to talk, some to sleep, some 
to keep their eyes very much open, some to plant seeds in a small 
garden bed, some to plant small tins of contraband there. They 
wore any combination of uniform or clothing that suited them. 

Everyone had his different intention, as individual as his style of 
dress, and yet everyone agreed that he shared a common interest, 
namely to upset us in every possible way, during the escape oppor- 
tunity that these walks presented. First the assembly, stage one, 
getting the party out of the yard. Then stage two, falling them in, 
in five ranks, for the count outside the guardroom. No one was ever 
in a hurry. People stood around chatting. "%ujunf, meine Herren" 
bawled our NGO in charge. No one moved. "Guard turn out." 

Those on duty for the walk eventually started to line up, in fives. 
Gradually the prisoners drifted into ranks, "dose up here", "cover 
off there'*, and then the count. Someone moved, someone shuffled, 
someone dropped his football, someone had to be shouted out of his 
book. Perhaps a recount was necessary, and then another one, and 
finally the total was written down and off they went, not in quick 
time, but in broken time, crocodiling round the corners, concertina- 
ing on the straight bits, jostling in the gateway, pointing, calling 
back, calling forward, dropping things, causing the whole time some 
kind of diversion. And all the same again on the way back. 

We felt that behind all this organized disorder the two French 
lieutenants must somehow have escaped. We had some confirmation 
of this, we thought, on June i8th, when a man rang up from the 
asylum at Zschadrass to say he had seen a man in the Tiergarten. 
This was the upper part of the valley in which the park lay, beyond 
the main wall that bounded the. far end of the sheep pen. We held 
an immediate parade and to our horror again a French officer was 
missing, Lieut. Odry, We sent out a search party, and we sent a 


truck to the bridge at Gross Sermuth. They overtook the escaper on 
the way. Obviously he must have used the walk as a getaway. We 
sounded him for his way out, but he would not talk* 

A week later took place another very neat attempt to escape 
during the walk. The work behind this escape attempt must have 
gone on for weeks. The column straggled down to the park, swelled 
through this door and that door- It double jinked left-right off the 
roadway on to the path down the steep slope. It eddied a moment 
at the gate there, to let a woman come through. Oddly enough, for 
men so long .in captivity, not many of those at the gate paid much 
attention to this woman, but as she walked back up the roadway 
along the approaching line, someone's sharp eyes noticed she had 
dropped a watch just by the gate. Instead of quietly pocketing it, 
as most prisoners would have done, chivalrous feelings supervened. 

"Hey, Fraulein, your watch!" The woman didn't hear. The 
NCO in chaise saw what had happened and sent a man after the 
woman with her watch. . . . Bad luck Lieut. Boulay's disguise was 
good. He had concealed it well under blankets and an overcoat, 
whipped off at the right moment But for the broken watch strap 
he might have escaped. 

Security measures in future the Duty Officer must personally 
count the prisoners for the walk as they come out through the yard 
gate. They must have their overcoats undone. Only one blanket 
allowed for each person going down to the walk, to stop any 
concealment. All counts on the walk to be taken simultaneously 
by the NCO and Duty Officer, one in front and one at the rear of 
the files. 

Then came July 2Oth. At last we thought we had found the gap 
the French had made in our defences. The ground down to the 
park fell very steeply once you left the road by that little gate on the 
left-hand side. There was a house with its ground floor on the level 
of the road and its basement level with the path below, along which 
the walk straggled down the slope. The house was built as it were 
up the side of a cliff and above it. By distracting the guards on the 
inner or house side of the path, by weaving out or in, or by speaking 
to them or causing a diversion to make the inside guards look across 
the line of march away from the house, it was possible to create a 
blind spot for a few seconds. In these few moments one man or even 
two could whip round a corner or projection and dive into conceal- 
ment behind a blast wall at one point, provided, of course, there was 
no one on the roadway above watching the crowd amble up or down 
the steep path. 

One afternoon in the middle of June the walk was two short on its 
return. Much argument Mowed. The guardroom demanded the 
same number back as had left, according to their record in the book 


The Security Officer ordered a special parade for everyone. Two 
officers were definitely missing. We went back step by step to the 
park, and back up again. The dogs came with us. Meanwhile all 
our telephone lines were in action outward. We phoned the dBde 
word "mousetrap" to all police stations within three miles 
"prisoner escaped". At Leipzig, fifteen miles off, they had duplicate 
photos and the numbers of all our prisoners. We just said who was 
missing and gave a brief description. We phoned the local foresters 
and railway stations. Parties were sent out on bicycles and on foot to 
beat around the woods and watch crossroads and scan the open 
country. But on the way back from the park that day we suddenly 
thought of an air-raid shelter in the basement of that projecting 
house overlooking the zigzag path. We tried the door. It was 
unlocked. The two missing prisoners were inside: Captains Elliot 
and Lados. 

They went down for twenty-one days, Lados in a cell under the 
archway between the two yards. He had the far cell, with a window 
looking down the side of that building and not straight out towards 
town. Since Lieut. Just's escape we had put bars on this window. 
He got hold of a hacksaw somehow, cut the bars we had installed, 
swung down the length of his bed-sheet one night and dropped to. 
the ground twenty feet below. He was undetected, and accomplished 
the amazing feat of reaching the Swiss frontier in spite of immense 
pain from a broken bone in his ankle, He was caught and 'brought 
back a week later. 

For sheer mad yet calculated daring, the successful escape of the 
French cavalry lieutenant, Pierre Mairesse-Lebrun will not, I think, 
ever be beaten. Lebrun had been out twice before he came to 
Colditz, and had been retaken each time near the Swiss frontier. 

At the beginning of June 1941, the gth to be exact, we had had a 
call one evening from Grossbothen station, a few miles away. They 
asked if anyone was missing. No. Why should there be? "We have 
a man here under guard. Might be one of your PWs. He asked for a 
ticket to Leipzig just now and offered us out-of-date money for it 
an old blue i co-mark note. He can't be German." 

At that time we still had a car and petrol. We fetched the man in; 
it was Lieut. Mairesse-Lebrun. He was dressed in the smartest 
civilian clothes, complete with monocle. But we didn't know how 
he. had got out and naturally he refused to tell us. There was plainly 
an exit from the camp, and the prisoners were using it sparingly and 
successfully. It seemed the French alone had the right of way, as 
well. When, ten days later, we caught those two officers, Elliot and 
Lados, in the air-raid shelter, we thought we had closed the gap. 
Perhaps now we could spend a little time studying the maps of our 
new front the Russian one, just opened up. 


Mairesse-Lebrun got twenty-one days' cells, the usual punish- 
ment. It was what we call Stubenarrest, confinement to quarters, the 
German military punishment for officers. We couldn't "confine" 
officer prisoners under Stubmarrest to their already confined quarters 
which they shared with dozens of others, so we gave them "rooms 5 ' 
on their own. These had, in the circumstances, to be cells. 

Those in arrest had all their normal German rations but nothing 
extra by way of Red Cross food. They also had two hours' exercise 
daily, which in those days was taken down in the park under guard, 
in the small enclosure with the summer-house. At one end of this, 
was the cross wall down and up the sides of the ravine, with the deer 
garden or zoo (Tiergarten) beyond it so called because three 
hundred years ago the Dukes of Saxony used to keep deer for the 
table there. It was handier to have them on the doorstep than going 
out all day shooting for the pot. This enclosure the French called 
the sheep pen. fare A moutons. 

Mairesse-Lebrun and several others also in arrest were down there 
at exercise one day July and playing leap-frog. The sentries 
were rather bored, standing up the sides of the valley, overlooking 
the small enclosure, and counting the minutes until they should go 
back to the guardroom. Everything was peaceful on a warm 
sunny morning. 

Lebrun and his comrade were frogging along the fence which 
ran out from the cross wall. The ground rose steeply from the other 
side of the fence and was fairly thick with trees. The two sentries 
along that side were twenty yards up the slope, spread out on a path 
parallel to, but well above, that side of the sheep pen. The two 
French officers stopped for a breather. Lebrun took a few steps out 
from the fence. His friend stood with his back to it. It was about eight 
feet high, a sort of palisade. Suddenly Lebrun ran. The other officer 
clasped his hands together and made a step just below waist level. 
Lebrun put his foot in the stirrup, as it were, and with a heave he 
was up and over the fence. Everyone woke up. The sentries unslung 
their rifles and began firing. Lebrun ran along to the right in the 
dead ground at the foot of the slope and got over the park wall 
untouched. He was wearing gloves to help him with the barbed 
wire at the angle of the fence and the cross wall. Wearing only shorts 
and a singlet and shoes, he dashed away up the Tiergarten, the 
sentries firing at him in vain. 

The NCO in charge immediately took the party back to the 
guardroom and reported. He might have done better to climb the 
wall and go off in pursuit himself. We turned out the whole country- 
side, police, Home Guard, Hitler Youth, and every dog we had. The 
dogs lost the trail in the deer park stream, but as there were still 
several hours of daylight we thought we could catch the fugitive 


in that time. Apparently Lebrun found a hide in a cornfield; any- 
way we failed to catch him.. 

In his cell he had left his kit tied up and addressed to himself in 
France, with a note: "An cos o&je rfassiraije serai reconnaissant que 
I 9 on me fosse parvenir mes affaires & I'addresse suivante Lieut. Pierre 
Mairesse-Lebnm Orange (Vaucluse). Que Dieu m'aideJ 99 * A few weeks 
later he wrote for it from his home in then unoccupied France and 
we sent it on. 

Once again, after the horse had gone, we took belated steps. We 
put a door in the park wall so that our men could get through it 
quickly if necessary. We heightened the palisade fence of the sheep 
pen with two feet of barbed wire. Those in arrest were in future 
to exercise morning and afternoon, not in the park, but on a terrace 
along the west face of the castle at the back of the guardroom, with 
a sentry each end of this terrace to watch them. Later an escape 
similar to Lebrun's was tried even from here. 

As a special camp, or rather a specialist's camp, we could get 
authorization for any material we liked from the OKW, yet by the 
summer of 1941 we had not even sunk microphones as a warning 
against tunnelling, nor had we installed any other electrical warning 
system where our buildings backed on to those of the prisoners. 
All the OKW had given us, all we had indeed scratched out of our 
brains as worth asking for, were four police dogs and their keepers 
and one old pensioned-off Kriminalkommissar. The latter was 
quickly nicknamed "Tiger" by the British. They alleged that he 
admitted to being so old that he had fought against Napoleon. And 
they even claimed that when they asked him which Napoleon, 
Napoleon III in 1870 or Napoleon the Great, he had replied 
that he was so old he could not remember! The dogs did sniff out 
one or two escapers in the park, but I don't think Tiger ever caught 
anybody at all. We put him in charge of the cells in the end, and 
the prisoners used to go and ask: how full are the cells?, when will 
there be an empty pne for me?, and would you see that I have a cell 
looking out on tp the terrace? (there was only one of these over 
the west terrace). And Tiger would oblige. 

Every month we ran a big search on one floor or another of the 
castle. Unfortunately the prisoners very often could not fail to notice 
our preparations, or found out through their "agents" and so were 

We had no regular stool pigeons of our own at any time in the 
whole five years of Colditz, but we did get two tips from informers 
that were useful to us, of which I shall tell later. One prisoner who 

* "Should I succeed, I should be obliged by the dispatch of my effects to me at 
the following address Lieut. Pierre Mairesse-Lebrun, Orange (Vauduse). 
May God help me!" 


came to the camp did volunteer to inform, but he was discovered as 
pro-German from his past record within twenty-four hours of his 
arrival by the prisoners' own "security service", and removed by us 
upon advice from the Senior Officer concerned. He was no good 
to us at all. 

Our two German NCOs, Mussolini and Dixon Hawke, the Ferret, 
knew as much as anyone of the goings-on in the camp, and certainly 
knew practically all the prisoners by sight. But they were far too 
busy on routine jobs to keep more than a fleeting eye on their own 

We did think up one useful move about this time the Roll- 
kommando, or Fire Brigade, or Riot Squad. This consisted of an 
NCO and six men, some of whom would now and again just dash 
into the yard and up these or those stairs, perhaps on spec, or 
perhaps following up something spotted as suspicious through the 
spy-hole in the yard gate or from one of our windows overlooking 
the prisoners* yard. But the moment the Riot Squad appeared 
through the gate a yell, would go up from all present in the yard, 
which served to warn that any clandestine activity must stop or be 
covered up. As the Riot Squad thundered up the circular staircases 
in the corner of the yard they would be shepherded along with 
cries of "Les Schleus!" from the French, "Skopy !" from the Poles, 
or "Goons up !" from the British, according to whose quarters they 
were storming. However, they did have some successes to their credit. 

The Dutch took their advent more quietly on these occasions and 
thereby once lost a great horde of material, their warning system 
having failed. Basic activities like tunnels never succeeded in 
Golditz although we found over twenty in various stages of con- 
struction over the five years. 

Disguises were surprisingly successful, in spite of our frantic efforts 
to stop them. The success of an impersonation depends on the 
watchfulness of the first of the enemy you meet, and decreases 
proportionately as you move away from the centre. 

We could and did eventually take mechanical measures against 
tunnels, but disguises required a rather better human element than 
we had at our disposal for duty all through the war. 

Every week we used to receive a publication called Das Abwehr- 
blatt (Security News) from the OKW, telling of escape methods in all 
the different camps. Alas that our own reports should have appeared * 
in it so often ! It was fascinating reading. Prisoners seemed to find it 
best to be conspicuous in a normal way, rather than try to be 
nervously inconspicuous. One man, apparently, had gone all the 
way to Switzerland disguised as a chimney-sweep. During the first 
war, I heard, a prisoner had pushed a wheelbarrow all the way to 


To show the detail with which the prisoners planned their 
different schemes, during one search we picked up a notebook 
containing details of the new variations in our guard changings, 
introduced after the canteen tunnel episode, as well as lighting-up 
time for the searchlights, and personal details of our officers and 
NCOs, even to the appearance and state of joviality on Sunday 
mornings of our LO i. They didn't miss much! 

For the rest of July, after Mairesse-Lebrun's escape, we had a 
quiet time, and thought it safe to undertake repainting in the 
French quarters. Three painters were put on the job and we gave 
them a guard to stop what might be two-way traffic in contraband. 

One evening two of them turned up at the gate on their own to 
be let out, at the end of the day. To the question where was their 
mate and the sentry, they replied "ICommt gUich" ("He's coming") 
and wandered off down the approach yard towards the archway. 
The gate man was more concerned about the missing painter and 
sentry, but the guardroom NCO was on the qid vive and yelled out 
to the two workmen, by now almost at the archway, to bring back 
their brass tallies. As they did not seem to hear his shouts, he sent 
a man out to chase them. They had no brass discs at all, because 
they were two prisoners (not painters) in first-rate "painters" 
disguise but quite unaware that every civilian or sentry going into 
the prisoners 9 yard nowadays had to have a brass disc with a 
number stamped on it. These were issued before entry into the 
prisoners' yard, and the name and number of the recipient were 
entered in a book in the guardroom, and checked when he came out 
of the yard. And that was the end of that escape. 

After this attempt, as an additional precautionary measure, all 
civilians working in die camp now had to wear a yellow arm-band 
with a swastika stamped on it, which they had to hand in with their 
number plates when they had finished their work. A day or two 
later two Dutchmen disguised this time as German soldiers tried to 
walk out of the gate. Again no check numbers. However, the 
prisoners at last realized that not only civilians but military 
personnel, too, had to have these tags. And that, of course, meant 
that the prisoners must have the things as well! 

The painting was still going on in the prison quarters, and the 
next thing was that one of the painters, an oldish man, reported the 
loss of his disc, No. 26, We warned all NCOs on the gate to look 
out for it. 

A fortnight later, in the first week in August, the sentries all left 
the yard together after manning the staircases as usual, during 
evening parade. Some had rifles, some not. There wasn't too much 
light at the gate, as the searchlights shone only on the walls above it, 
and not on the gate itself. There was quite a scramble to get back 


to the guardroom. The NCO on the gate glanced only casually at 
the number plates thrust into his hand. A junior NCO handed one 
in and said, "I've got a message to the Kommandant from the 
Duty Officer", and turned off sharply left towards the archway, 
and not right, to the guardroom, like all the others. The NCO 
looked after him a moment, not quite sure about his face, and then 
down at the disc. Number 26 ! He gave a yell. Number 26 walked on. 
Several guards started to shout, and Number 26 walked on quicker 
and then one short, sharp address from in front of him, the 
sentry under the archway shouted, "Halt, or I fire", and he came 
to a stop. Number 26 was the British lieutenant Airey Neave. 

We searched him thoroughly, more thoroughly than usual, and 
on his body we found a cellophane container, such as we used to 
sell toothbrushes in, stuffed with money. 

The next day LO i excelled himself. "Gefreiter (Corporal) 
Neave," he announced, "is posted to the Russian front." There was 
an almighty roar of laughter. Lieut. Neave looked very rueful. Six 
months later, though, he had the last laugh. But for the moment 
we were top dog. 

In the stable again, knee-deep in posthumous precautions. All 
escapers and new arrivals now to be submitted to mouth and body 
inspection when checked into the yard. All military personnel to 
carry a printed pass, stamped and signed by the Adjutant. This to 
be shown to all sentries. A fine rule on paper, but what newly- 
arrived fifty-five-year-old grandfather is going to make a nuisance 
of himself demanding passes from captains and majors and 
colonels and showing his ignorance of the identity, perhaps, of 
even the Kommandant's deputy? The Kommandant himself was 
not included in this rule; sentries did not have to demand a pass 
from him. But this rule was never 100 per cent observed. 

We also extended the system of a simultaneous count fore and aft 
of the ranks, hitherto used only for checking the walk to the parades 
in the yard itself. These parades, or roll-calls as they really were, 
took place two, later four, times a day. Each nationality formed up 
separately in five ranks, and our Duty Officer took the count him- 
self, walking slowly along the front rank counting the files. We soon 
caught the French out with their "rabbit run" method of faking the 
count. When anyone was missing they would leave an empty file 
towards, but not at, the left-hand end of their third rank. The 
officers in the second and fourth ranks would be taller on the whole 
than those in the third. When the count started, with Germans 
checking the dressing of the files, and counting, in front as well as 
behind, as soon as his file had been counted a man three or four files 
from the right-hand end in the third rank would run quickly and 
quietly to the empty file at the far or left-hand end arriving before 


our people, who naturally took their time checking along the ranks. 
This trick was employed by the British also with success. Flying 
Officer Dominic Bruce was their chief actor, being small and active. 

The Dutch covered up gaps in their ranks in a most original way. 
I said before that their parade discipline as well as their general 
behaviour was exemplary. They stood motionless on parade. So 
motionless as to look like dummies. So they made two dummies, 
called Max and Moritz, who also stood on parade when necessary, 
filling in the gaps for Dutch officers who had escaped. 

On July a8th, 1941, a new passage to freedom was discovered. As 
always, the point of junction, or what we call the "Naktstdle", or 
seam, is a weakness in any position or framework. In one part of the 
prison yard, the Saalhaus, the building rose to four storeys with two 
attics on the top. Here were quartered the senior officers, with the 
theatre above them, and baths below. Down through the building 
ran an air shaft. This was about twenty feet square. The prisoners 
had access to the theatre on the top floor and so to the. top of the 
air shaft. The windows into this shaft on the other floors were 
bricked up. 

Now, the ground floor at the bottom of the shaft was the German 
kitchen quarters. The shaft came down to a tiled floor with a door 
one way to our kitchen and out into our courtyard. Two doors also 
gave off this lowest floor level to a refrigerator room and a large 
storeroom. A careful watch from the air shaft windows at theatre 
level told the prisoners that at certain times the frequent visits 
from the kitchen to one or other of these two rooms by the German 
kitchen staff ceased altogether. At a guess the kitchen would then 
be empty. These times were usually after a meal had been served 
and the kitchen cleaned up. 

On the day in question, two French officers sawed through the 
ornamental ironwork over the windows at the theatre level and 
lowered themselves down a forty-foot rope to the ground floor. 
They were dressed in civilian clothes with yellow arm-bands as 
required. Several people were standing about the German yard as 
these two left the kitchen and turned left towards the gate out 
towards the park. There was a sentry at this point, but his post did 
not carry a check list of passes in and out, and no brass disc was 
required here either. Quite a lot of coming and going went on 
through what we called the park gate, as the married quarters were 
just down the roadway outside. 

The sentry opened the gate to a knock, saw a couple of workmen 
with their arm-bands on, satisfied himself just by that that every- 
thing was all right, and let them through. But among the odd people 
around hi the German yard was the man who controlled the laundry 
for the whole castle* He was standing in the doorway of his store. 


Officer prisoners were not entitled to separate sheets on their beds; 
instead they had sleeping bags of blue and white check material 
made up in one piece like a sack about six feet by three. There were 
hundreds of these in use, not only officially as bed sheets, but 
unofficially as bags for carting rubbish in tunnels, as ropes, or as 
dress material for ladies in disguise. The laundry man wondered 
idly, who are these two? He knew all the comers and goers among 
the workmen; they were friends of his from the town. He thought 
again slowly, who are they? In the end, after a good hour, when his 
job was finished, he was still asking who those two fellows were. 
In the end he went to the Security Officer and asked him t The 
Security Officer had no idea, so we set the dogs on the trail. They 
went so fast that our men could follow on bicycles. We caught up 
with the escapcrs about six miles away, near Leisnig. Who were these 
two, anyway? Lieuts. Thibaud and Perrin. 

On the last day of July we foiled a second mass outbreak. This 
was to have taken place from the British quarters above the canteen, 
out of their so-called Long Room. 

This was a real cat-and-mouse act, more so than with the other 
attempted British mass break through the canteen tunnel. In that 
case we were ignorant of the exit until the tunnel actually broke. 
This time we knew where they were coming out and organized a 
proper reception committee. 

The guard quarters in the Kommandantur were in the north-east 
corner of our yard at the far end of a corridor on the first floor. 
Right at the end were our lavatories. The wall behind the lavatories 
was the wall of the British Long Room. One night while the guard 
was doing duty the prisoners started to work at their side of the wall. 
They assumed our quarters were empty, but our telephone switch- 
board was up that way, and day and night a telephonist was on 
duty. He went out to the lavatory during the night. He heard a 
noise, a scratching in the wall. It stopped and started again. Our 
man called up Security. The Security Officer came along with the 
Duty Officer, and they listened. Someone was working behind the 
wall there, level with the second lavatory. They decided to do 

"Let them tunnel. It will keep them busy and happy/ 9 said LO i. 
"And go on using the lavatories normally.** 

Next day the Riot Squad kept a check on the noises ; they went 
on at intervals night and day. The wall was not more than eighteen 
inches thick. Any break-out would happen very soon. The prisoners 
must have known they couldn't Hope to hide the working end of 
their hole for long. 

We reckoned the break would be over the week-end at mealtime. 
Our officers would then be in their mess, the guard would be on 


duty or having their meal too. The Kommandantur buildings would 
be practically empty. They were going to break into that building 
obviously, but how did they think they were going to get out of it? 

To get in through the lavatory was only the first step. They had 
then to get out of the Kommandantur somehow, without being seen. 
Perhaps they thought they could get out of one of our windows, 
unbarred on the east side of our part of the castle. 

Anyway, once again the mouse would not have the chance to 
wander farther than the cat would let him. We set to work too. We 
bored a hole through the door of the guards* sleeping quarters so as 
to keep a watch on the door coming out of the lavatories. We kept 
this door closed. For two days the Riot Squad listened and watched. 
Finally they noticed a minute spy-hole in the plaster of the lavatory 
back wall on our side. Action stations. It was Sunday. 

Tiger was there with six men, plus the Duty Officer LO z. In 
due course out of the lavatories came the first pair. They closed the 
door and started off on their adventure. 

We whipped our door open "This way, please, gentlemen!" 

Astounded, they followed us in, so astounded that they did not 
even shout to warn the others behind them. 

It was now our turn to be funny at the prisoners* expense. The 
NCO in charge of the parcel office, known to the French as the 
Beaux Max, and to the British as Nichtwahr ("Ain*t it**), suggested 
that we should strip these first two escapers, and send two of our 
men down to the park in their civvies. No sooner said than done, 
and the British Padre, Platt, in his diary which came to us every 
now and again for censoring, recorded the delight with which his 
comrades observed the apparent success of the undertaking there 
were Allen and Flynn, out of the Kommandantur, going down 
happily towards the park! "Audacity that's it!'* was the com-: 
ment back there in lie Long Room hastily translated from the 
Napoleonic French of the Belgian officers in the escape party 
"Uaudace Uaudace Toujours Fondace!" 

No fewer than five pairs came out in all at five-minute intervals. 
Then there was a long wait. Tiger, worried perhaps about the 
impending rush on his cell accommodation, got permission to go and 
have a look inside the lavatory and the game was up. We rang the 
guardroom, and the Riot Squad stormed across the yard up to the 
British Long Rpom. Everyone there was in uniform, the rest of the 
escape queue had done a quick change. We found one of the stoves 
crammed with civilian clothes, and the haul of passes and money 
and food from the ten we did catch was impressive. Those concerned 
were Lieuts. Elliott, Allen, Cheetham (RNAS) and Hyde-Thomson, 
Flight Lieuts. Middleton and Flynn, the Belgian Lieuts. Gaston, 
Arcquc and Verkest, and the Polish Cadet-Officer Karpf. 


Sniping and Sapping 

THE "WALK", as it was called, meaning the park exercise party, 
was coming back up the zigzag path more slowly than ever in the 
August heat. No one was very much awake. Suddenly down the line 
came two Hitlerjugend in shorts and vests with a swastika on the 
front. Our NCO bringing up the rear of the column got the Hitler 
salute from these two but "Herrgott what do they think that is 
meant to be? Hitler salute? Hitler salute, Fascist salute, Com- 
munist salute?" Alas, it was more like an English Boy Scouts 9 
greeting! Ldeuts. Thorn and Boustead had not worked out quite the 
right angle for this escape attempt, though their disguise was 

For an officer to take the place of an orderly in a group going out 
of the castle on a job was not a very safe method of escape, due to 
the close knowledge of the orderlies that our two NCOs, Mussolini 
and Dixon Hawke, had acquired. They knew all the orderlies, 
French, British and Polish, who were under their control, by name 
and by sight and by characteristics. The orderlies were housed in 
oiie block in the prisoners* yard and were detailed for regular or 
staff jobs inside and also for occasional outside work. 

Thinking perhaps we were beginning to drown in the depths of 
our own thoughts on complicated possibilities of escape, a prisoner 
tried one of those so simple methods that we had almost forgotten. 
His escape nearly came off. Captain Lawton got in with a group of 
British orderlies going to work in the park (always the park !) and 
got away over the wall. But he was seen near Zschirla by farm- 
workers, reported and caught near Scoplau by our cycle patrol. It 
was Mussolini who got the "%igarre" for this one. 

Then, a week later, Lieut. Durant did the same thing in a group 
of French orderlies. He switched with one of them before they went 
out to work, and likewise got over the park wall. But he was stopped 
by an old Home Guard man in chaise of an outlying Arbeits- 
kommando, a working party on a farm, who was bringing a man to 
Colditz for medical treatment. The J&garre this time went to Fouine, 
the Ferret 

Between these two "passing-off" escapes there occurred the first 
of a scries of escapes in the park which quite shattered our morale. 
I suppose we had been growing careless through over-confidence, 
but these events made us adopt almost panic security measures. 



These increased our own duties to such an extent that we almost fell 
over each other with the constant watching and endless checking 
of our own prisoners and each other. 

The head of the Dutch escape organization was the inventive 
and active Captain van den HeuveL We could never tell if anything 
was "going on" among the Dutch. Their behaviour was always the 
same perfect discipline, quiet in their manner, naturally and easily 
dropping into and out of a conversation whenever they wished. 
They never made themselves conspicuous in any way. Hence their 
success in springing surprises. Then only would they approach the 
bounds of familiarity, with the broadest. of grins among themselves 
and occasionally shared with us. They rejoiced in the exercise 
ground in the park as a field for escape manoeuvres, and profited by 
it more than anyone else. 

On this particular day, five Dutch officers were missing after the 
walk. "Sonderappell! Five missing ! Good God I" We had thwarted 
several minor and one major escape during July and August and 
we had really felt we were getting the 'place properly bottled up. 
We were, in a sense, always thinking this. And every time, the 
prisoners popped out like corks from unexpected places. 

The officers missing this day were Captains Larive and Steinmetz 
and Lieuts. Kruimink, van der Krap, and van Lynden (Royal 
Netherlands Navy). We ran a snap search in the Dutch quarters 
and found various articles of civilian clothing and, most interesting 
of all, a map with detailed instructions how to get from Tuttlingen, 
in south-west Germany, to the Swiss frontier and over it. A few days 
later, Captains Larive and Steinmetz got across the Swiss border, 
presumably by this very route. Captains Dufour and Smit, who 
escaped later in the same mysterious way, were caught near Singen 
on what appeared to be the regular route. 

The three others were found ten days later concealed in an empty 
space in the Schloss to which they had access through a camouflaged 
hole in their rooms. 

Once more we were faced with an unknown breach in our 
defences. We cancelled the walk for a while, and tightened up 
every pjart of our patrol System. We also arranged for a halt on the 
way bgfck from the park now and again, to make an extra count 
when the "walk" was not expecting one. But the moment the walk 
started up again, two more Dutch disappeared, Major Giebel and 
Lieut Trijbar. We thought that perhaps during some diversion, 
perhaps during the football or handball games in the sheep pen 
they might have dug under the palisade fence and got down 
unobserved into the stream and perhaps hidden up under the bridge 
until the "walk" had gone. In due course we learned that these two 
also had made a successful crossing to Switzerland. That meant that 


four out of sixty Dutch officers had got right away in six weeks. We 
could work out on paper how long it would be at this rate before the 
lot were gone i The French had got three right away. The British, 
Poles and Belgians none up to now. 

* Some weeks later, one of our more observant sentries on park duty 
nqticed quite a jcrowd of prisoners concentrated, for no obvious 
purpose, round a manhole cover in the sheep pen. He kept his eye 
on the group and then noticed two of them lift up the cover and 
disappear below ground. He made a report and there were Lieuts. 
Wardle and WojchieckowsH down inside. I felt, however, that this 
must really be the Dutch escape route, and wondered what bargain- 
ing had induced them to lend it to the British and Poles. We had 
looked at that cover so many times. It had a great bolt on the top, 
which we tried again and again. We had looked inside as well. 
Nothing ever there. Perhaps it would have been better had we left 
the cover off altogether. There was a water conduit underneath, 
about eight feet down. We worked out how this could have been 

Thinking back, a few Dutch officers often used to gather round 
this manhole, standing and talking, or sitting and talking. They 
often wore long black cloaks, part of their uniform. After a while the 
small gathering at this spot was nothing unusual. Then, on three 
occasions, they must have slipped two of their number down the 
drain under cover of the group, and in the concealment of their 
cloaks. It must have been nerve-racking for the two concerned, who 
may well have had to wait day after day until the few moments 
came when the two or three of our own NCOs were looking or 
walking the other way in the main enclosure and the two sentries 
up the slope either side were unsighted by trees as they moved 
about, or were distracted by some incident a football over the 
fence perhaps at the other end of the pen, or a faked dispute between 
players and a referee. 

Getting their men under the cover was only one third of the whole 
show. First a bolt had to be taken off the cover and then, after the 
men were inside, it had to be replaced. The replacement bolt, 
however, was not made of iron. It was identical to look at, but it was 
made of glass with a wooden nut at one end. When the glass bolt was 
pushed from underneath it broke. A third bolt, or possibly the 
original one, was put in place by the two escapers after they had got 
out and before they left. They collected all the glass splinters of the 
second bolt and took them with them. 

Again we had the paradox doors and covers should be kept 
locked for safety! But doors and covers should be kept open for 
inspections I And again, as the pendulum swung between these two 
rules, the prisoners dodged it, and away. 


It was about this time that we began to take considerable interest 
in a mysterious escape occupation of which we found clues over a 
period of several months, before discovering the cause of the 
evidence. We found a cracked beam up in the French quarters 
It had given way, we discovered, due to the weight above it, which 
weight came du Lieber Himmel!" from tons of dirt and rubble 
under the inner eaves of the double attics. These were heavy enough 
by themselves, but now at least 25 per cent heavier with masses of 
accumulated debris. We examined the stuff bricks, dressed stone, 
mortar, even pieces of virgin porphyry rock! We sat back and 
thought. A tunnel obviously, somewhere in the French quarters. 
The volume of the rubbish showed not only a long tunnel, but a 
tunnel a long time building. That meant a perfected warning and 
working organization, since till then we had not had the slightest 
hint of any large-scale activity at all. Did this mean a vast mass 
escape in the offing? Was that why September and October had 
been so quiet? Had all the experts got together to finish off an 
almighty tunnel and so get everyone out in one fell swoop? Were 
they all just digging, disposing of the waste, distracting our attention? 
There must be at least a dozen men on the prisoners' warning system 
for this tunnel. 

We laid on three roll-calls a day, to shorten the time available for 
the miners on shift work. But we couldn't really lay on night roll-calls 
too. We would never have got the prisoners down into the yard. 
If they could fake accounts by day they could fake them in the weak 
light in the yard at night. And our own people would not have been 
very much up to the mark on night shift in any case. Sentries, after 
two hours in the snow (it began on November 3rd that 1941 winter, 
as well we all remember) liked to keep warm in the guardroom and 
not spend their time off sentry duty being made frozen monkeys of 
by prisoners in the yard. 

But we did think up one quite useful trick. The last parade of the 
day was now to be any time between seven and nine, with only 
.half an hour's notice on the yard bell. But that still left twelve Hours 
at night for the tunnel work to go on. We put two NCOs into the 
yard semi-permanently day and night, just wandering about to no 
fixed plan, just looking for this tunnel. But they were followed, even 
preceded, a lot of the time, by a sort of herald to announce their 
progress, particularly when they started up this or that staircase. 
They were not very successful. Dresden and Berlin, that is Ast. 4 
and OKW Security, showered us with advice, all quite useless since 
they knew absolutely nothing of the circumstances or of the 
people concerned. The whole burden of Colditz security fell on 
barely ten of us, officers in the Kommandantur and NCGte on the 


"Now when, can you tell us, will your tourists be starting off 
on their holiday?" "Is this the Channel tunnel?' The Fiihrer's 
secret weapon?" These questions came up in various forms in our 
Mess, or in the town. "Can't find the hole, eh?" was the question 
bandied round the guardroom. Something must be done. 

Berlin and Dresden sent down a small army of searchers, police 
officials, security personnel from neighbouring camps, and so on, 
to help us out, as they thought. 

So it was that after one morning parade we left the sentries on the 
staircase entrances, kept the prisoners in the yard and let one of 
these mobs in through the gate for an all-time record search. No one 
was very surprised in the yard, for the coinings and goings in the 
Kommandantur, the cars, the busy air of the place, had all been 
spotted by our "guests", and the welcome to the incoming "tourists" 
was impressive. The welkin resounded. God will the French attics 
don't collapse, I thought. A pity this crowd of useless helpers couldn't 
carry away a sack of rubbish each ! The search went on till the after- 
noon. All floors on both sides of the yard and the two empty floors 
above the chapel were gone over. The kitchen and theatre were 
searched; and the Saalhaus in the south-west corner of the yard 
where the senior officers had their separate rooms that was 
searched too. We of the regular staff just showed these visiting 
characters where the doors were and left them to it. Heaven knows, 
it was even necessary to show them the right doors, because a good 
many of the normally placed ones had been bricked up. The sum 
total of all this was a haul such as we would expect to get in a normal 
month's work, but "Gott verdammt", no tunnel entry ! 

Among the booty of this search we were shaken to find brand-new 
German tools. It seemed that bribery and corruption were beginning 
to work. The home front was weakening. 

On November 8th we heard an outbreak of firing in that ever 
condemnable park. In due course the deputy Kommandant .rang 
up and told me to go with him into the yard and in^^ British 
quarters, on the first floor, overlooking the park. -Yfe .took a few of 
the Riot Squad, and went into the yard and up/the tlrcular staircase 
in the right-hand or south-east corner by the canteen. Up in the 
British quarters bullets were flying around from the window, where 
the British flag hung out on a broomstick. 

"Take it in," roared our Major. No one seemed to understand. I 
repeated the command in English. 

From the floor, where all those prisoners present were lying prone, 
came the query, "Why don't you take it in yourself?" In the end the 
senior prisoner present an Australian squadron-leader hauled 
the thing in. But the firing still went on. We looked out carefully, 
but from the noise above us it was plain that the sentries were now 


firing up at the French quarters on the next floor. Up the staircase 
we went. 

The French had hung a tin hat made of cardboard out of one of 
their windows. This was now the target for our marksmen. The 
shooting was good and one bullet had struck the top of the window 
embrasure. Later the French wrote round it, "// nous f out des victimes", 
quoting one of our officers who once had said, "A few dead men in 
this castle would soon stop these riots." But now they hauled in the 
tin hat and the battle ceased. Masses of prisoners, meanwhile, had 
assembled down in the yard. The French were giving tongue. "0& 
sont les Allemandes Dans lam . . . Qu'ilsy restentjusqtfau cou . . ./"* 

We left the yard crestfallen, to discover the cause of the disturb- 
ance. Two Belgian officers, Lieuts. Leroy and le Jeune, had got 
away in the park, and these diversions in the castle were laid on to 
distract the sentries firing at them. The Belgians gave up when they 
discovered they could not cross the park wall. When we conducted 
an inquiry, some five of our sentries swore that they were actually 
fired on from the castle ! And two swore on their Diensteid (Service 
oath) that they had seen the smoke from the shots ! This was really 
too much, but presumably you could crack two bedboards together 
and blow out a concentration of smoke or tooth powder from a paper 
bag or football bladder* These five were absolutely certain, that they 
were firing in self-defence. Thank God they killed no one. It would 
have been a nice question for the Leipzig court-martial, or even 
later, for Nuremberg! 

It was about this time that we got our first political prisoner, 
Mr. Giles Romilly, a nephew of Sir Winston Churchill. He had been 
captured in Narvik in 1940 as a civilian reporting for the Daily 
Express * He had escaped earlier that year from 201 internment camp 
in Bavaria, dressed as a woman. He ranked as zProminente a social 
prize (so our OKW considered) of some standing maybe useful as a 
hostage. For us in Colditz he was just another security headache. 
Our instructions were as follows, and they came from the very 
highest source ; . ; fS' "' 

1. Kommandant and Security Officer answer for Romilly's 
security with their heads. 

2. His security is to be assured by any and every exceptional 
measure you care to take. 

Kommandant and Security Officer worked this out as follows : 

I. Romilly's code name was to be Kuril. 

* This is an old r&tteJsffrom the First World War special camp, known as Kav- 
alier ScharnJhorst. General de Gaulle was there for some months, and Marshal 
Tuchaschevsky, then both young lieutenants. ED. 


2. All members of the Kommandantur and guard companies 
must familiarize themselves with Emirs appearance. 

Photos were posted up in the guardroom, the Kommandantur, the 
office, etc. 

3. Anyone finding this man outside the prisoners' yard would 
take hiTri at once to the Kommandantur. 

4. The Rollkommando was to search him out every hour and 
note in a book where he was at that time. 

5. By day he might move around the castle where he wished. 

6. No park walk. At every walk a special check to be made that 
Romilly was not with the group. 

7. He was to be locked in his own room immediately after evening 
parades. A spy-hole to be put in the door, and a guard outside 
and the light burning all night (later just a blue light). The 
bed to be within range of the spy-hole. 

8. His presence to be checked at night at irregular intervals. 

Mr. Romilly was a short, dark man in his thirties. He liked boxing, 
but in camp stage shows he played women's roles. For some months 
he reacted to our special measures, especially the disturbance of his 
sleep. He used to fling his boots against the door and put paper over 
the spy-hole, but in the end he accepted these inconveniences. On one 
occasion we caught him disguised as an orderly on a coal cart due to 
leave the yard. He spoke good German and certainly played his part 
in undermining the morale of the guards with whom he could 
converse easily at his door, at any time of the evening and night. 

Apart from the undiscoverable tunnel and the Dutch escapes from 
the park and the discovery of their exit, the ball was kept rolling in 
November by several more escape attempts. On the 23rd, after the 
teatime parade, our sentry in the prisoners' yard was under covert 
observation. He walked back and forth across the yard regularly, 
as was his known custom. He stopped every three or four turns for 
just so long. The prisoners knew his timings well. He never stopped 
hallway across and went back again to the wall he started from. It 
must have been known that this particular "goon", as the British so 
kindly called us, would be on duty and everything, and those 
concerned, was ready. As this man moved out from the kitchen 
again, towards the other side of the yard (the north or chapel side), 
he had about fotry yards to go before stopping and turning. It was 
getting dark. The light in the yard was due to go on any minute. " 
When the sentry got well away from the kitchen, two British officers 
whipped up on to the roof of this single-storey building, backing on 
to the high four-storey back wall of the German yard, and with the 
help of a lightning conductor pulled themselves up on the roof. They 


then worked their way to the foot of a smoke stack, braced with iron 
bands every three or four feet of its height. Unfortunately the 
searchlights came on just too soon and they were seen. To get at them 
we had to go up into the orderlies' quarters in the south-west block. 
There we found four other British officers. Their story was that they 
were collecting their washing. We gaoled the lot. The last four pro- 
tested they had nothing to do with this escape. We replied, "You 
had no right in the orderlies' quarters anyway, as you know. You 
will do cells for that, then." 

By now rehearsals were under way for the great British Christinas 
production "Ballet Nonsense". The stage on the third floor of the 
Saalhaus block (in the south-west corner) rocked with the "horse- 
power" of the chorus. The prima ballerina, known as "Old Horse", 
was Captain Rogers, about the hairiest "girl" that could be found 
among the prisoners, but best known to us as a mining engineer, 
responsible for the great tunnel built in 1941 at Laufen, near 
Salzburg, which resulted in all Royal Engineer officers at that camp 
being sent to Colditz. Laufen,* or Oflag yA, was a camp for Dunkirk 
and St. Valery prisoners taken in the summer of 1940. 

This theatre, I felt, was another possible weak spot of ours. To us, 
it had one, but only one, slight advantage. It was a privilege. We 
could stop this privilege as a disciplinary measure, for what that was 
worth ! It was about the only general punishment that we could 
inflict, although we didn't call it a general punishment; we simply 
called it the withdrawal of a privilege. Privileges could be withdrawn 
at any time, for no particular admitted reason. We had done the 
same with the park walk in the early days, but the OKW had not 
backed us up, declaring this walk to be a right and not a favour to 
the prisoners. 

Two weeks before Christmas we had a good day taking two tricks 
in one, but still no tunnel ! That day the party for the park was rather 
large and more than usually unruly, particularly when being 
counted before the march back. The NCOs in charge were suspicious 
and checked very, very carefully. 

The officer in charge, LO i that day, suddenly spotted the reason. 
"All from here to the right, move to the right. All from here to the 
left, move to the left." 

That left one file standing, plus an extra man to the right, in a 
file of his own. Why hadn't he moved? LO i soon found out. This 
Dutch officer was a dummy! So that was how it was done! We 

* The practice of escaping began among British military personnel on the 
march from France to Germany. Oflag 70, Laufen, was the scene of the first 
attempts from enclosed camps the first three away being a Gunner Doherty 
(sent later to Colditz), with two civilians, volunteers from the Finnish war against 
the Soviets, Messrs, G. Stephenson and A. Henderson. They were recaught a few 
miles short of tbe Yugoslavian border. Ed. 


counted again but there were still two missing. We put the dogs on 
immediately and under a patch of leaves were Lieut Kruimink and 
Captain van der Krap. The "leaves" were a camouflage net. 

The Dutch were masters at this sort of thing. Their covering-up of 
hidey-holes in their rooms was absolutely first-rate. They were 
thorough and they were stickers. 

Only four days later two German officers presented themselves 
at the yard gate. The guard let them out and saluted. They went off 
left towards the archway. The guard was a bit slow. He locked the 
door first of all, and then the passes? Orders were to demand all 
passes at all gates from all military personnel. He didn't want to 
leave his post. Still, he was suspicious and ran after the officers and 
asked for their "Ausweise". 

"That's all right, we're coming straight back," was the answer, in 
good German. But not good enough. The guard was called out, and 
stopped Lieut van Lynden and Captain Steenhover in borrowed, 
but home-made, plumage. 

Two days later leave postings went up. Half of us had the 22nd to 
the 28th, but my leave was again over the New Year. I had been in 
Colditz for just over twelve months now and had indeed something 
to look back on. 

Our Kommandant, sixty-nine years old, was on a month's sick 
leave. His deputy was the third we'd had, an officer we all got on 
with very well. He had lost an arm in the first war and was no stickler 
for discipline. We looked forward to our Christmas party that night. 

Our Quartermaster officer did us proud, even though belts were 
tightening. The Ukraine might well be all that our propaganda 
claimed, but nothing much had arrived from that "granary" yet. 
No transport, probably. But hi the illustrated papers it was becoming 
a joke. & 

That evening, after dinner, we had a show put on by the troops. 
The guard company provided music and song, and a scries of 
sketches, poking fun at their officers or "dragging us through the 
cocoa" as we say in Germany. 

Unfortunately the proceedings were somewhat damped by a 
phone call which put "a hair in the soup", just as it was coming up 
a Christmas present from the prisoners! 

The guard NCO hurried in "Three French officers have iust 
escaped from the dentist's." 

"Man all telephones. Mousetrap's the word," and we called up 
the local alarm network. 

These visits to dentists and hospitals were another gift to the 
Pnsoners, putting them outside the normal restrictions of Colditz 

tS^-27 Pr * ded a ******* start to P 088 * 1 * ^scaping enter- 
prises. That evening, a party of seven were sent down to the town 


dentist, under a guard, because up in the Schloss the French officer 
dentist hadn't the material for more than simple fillings. The patients 
all came out of our dentist's house together after treatment. Their 
guard came last. It was very foggy and it was raining too that 
evening. Three of the party just bolted down the street: Lieuts. 
Durand-Hornus, de Frondeville and Trot. There was nothing the 
guard could do about it. He couldn't run three ways at once. He 
daren't fire blindly into the fog. We could do nothing more either 
once we had warned everyone. So back we went to our Christmas 
festivities, but the soup was cold and the spirit of the feast was much 
watered down. The three in due course got right back to France, 

We had a lot on our minds that Christmas of 1941. The Timers in 
the castle, whoever they were and wherever they were digging, had 
got their tunnel through our foundations. We found plain earth now 
on their dumps up in the attics no more bricks and stones. We laid 
on another Grossra^ia, or class-one search ; but no sign of the tunnel. 

A week before Christmas, the prisoners' Theatre Committee 
wanted a new grand piano. They paid up in camp money, and in 
due course the thing arrived on a lorry. I knew there would be 
trouble there was. Three men took the piano up the narrow stairs 
to the theatre in sections. They were civilian workers from Leipzig. It 
was a long, heavy and awkward job, so they took their coats and caps 
off. They never saw them again. The prisoners refused to return 
their clothes. They didn't care that clothes cost not only money but 
clothing coupons as well. So we closed the theatre. The prisoners, 
anxious for their "Ballet Nonsense", offered a lump sum. The Kom- 
mandant was still away on his cure, so his deputy accepted the offer 
and the theatre reopened. After this curtain-raiser, the pantomime 
was a great success! 

The year before, the best of the sketches had caricatured a 
Conservative Member of Parliament making a speech to his consti- 
tuents'. This year, the cream of the show was a German school- 
teacher's address to his pupils on the subject of Nazism. 

The prisoners' food supply was in some way better than ours, this 
third Christmas of the war. Red Cross parcels arrived now not only 
from England, but from New Zealand and the USA as well. They 
contained butter, biscuits, tins of meat, coffee, sugar, chocolate, 
cigarettes and so on good for bribery ! Cigarettes also arrived in 
bulk tens of thousands at a time. The prisoners had so much sugar 
that the Poles started making wine from raisins and prunes. Then 
they began distilling the wine ! Where did they get the yeast? From 
our sentries obviously. 

Books began to arrive in large quantities. We provided a room for 
a library* Gramophone records came in, gramophones, musical 


instruments* Though everything looked as innocent as it could be, 
appearances were sometimes deceptive. Our censorship was hard at 

At New Year the prisoners had their lights on until i a.m. At 
12.30 each group sang its National Anthem in the yard and then 
retired to its quarters. I was on duty that New Year's Eve. What 
had they all got to sing about? I was beginning to see, but at least a 
year was to go by before I even thought to agree with them. At the 
same time, I wondered if perhaps they mightn't have some secret 
source of news to cheer them up. They had maps, of course, all over 
the camp. There was a big map of Africa on the wall in room 
No. 406 of the French quarters. I had noticed that and later was 
to examine it much more closely. 

Meanwhile, we German officers were put on rations too and got 
food points, just like our civilians. All our rations were reduced by 
this new grading. For us, it meant only half our old military quota of 
meat. In fact we were now worse off than the men. We pooled half 
our points and had one good meal in the mess, at midday. For 
breakfast and evening meals we looked out for ourselves. Our Kom- 
inandant protested over this to Area Headquarters at Dresden. He 
got no satisfaction there at all, and, anyway, we noticed on our visits 
to Ast. 4 there that they didn't eat much better than we did. So we 
started keeping rabbits and poultry to improve our menu. There 
were still over three more years of war war with the Allies, who now 
included the United States, and, for us at Colditz, war with these 
prisoners in our gates. Our prisoners didn't really go short of food 
until the end of 1944, and then the Allied bombing was mainly 

Our German doctor, a Bavarian, sparked off a stupid row about 
this time, over saluting. He insisted on his salute, or tried to. He 
insisted that Poland didn't exist and that therefore he was entitled to 
a salute not only from officers of equal and lower ranks but even from 
the Polish General Piskor himself. This was too much even for our 
Kommandant, now back from leave. He refused to back up the 
Tierarzi (or horse-doctor, as they called him in the yard). The 
French called him the "Mtdecin Imagindre". 

He was responsible, they said, for several "Malades" their own 
General Le Bleu, the English Colonel German, and other high- 
ranking officers, who were given cells for not saluting the Stabsarzt 
(of the rank of Captain). 

The French were making themselves very conspicuous these days. 
They were being extremely cocky. Were they creating a diversion? 
Had they a guilty secret (a tunnel) to hide? Certainly they were the 
most active company as far as we could see, at the turn of the year 


For example, they asked to have the chapel open daily from 
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on religious grounds they needed, so they said, 
the spiritual consolation of choir practice and choral recitals and 
religious instruction to improve the cultural life of the camp in 
general. We couldn't see why they shouldn't have this and we 
agreed, occasionally checking the chapel. The spiritual and cultural 
life of the camp seemed to be going very well in there and, as we 
discovered very shortly, so indeed was the French tunnel along with 
it, or rather underneath it ! Anticipating what transpired, I cannot 
agree that this deception was anything other than the very grossest 
abuse of our concession to culture and religious worship. I feel these 
prisoners would have stolen the lead out of each others' coffins 
if they'd had the chance and during the funeral service, too ! There 
seemed to be no occasion, however sacred, that some of them would 
not exploit. 

The Titrarzt was made a complete fool of, over apparently 
genuine medical cases which the prisoners brought to his notice for 
operational treatment, through their own doctors. He learned to be 
more careful when he found his patients had started a tunnel under 
one of the beds in our sick bay. As for sending operation cases away, 
whose was the final responsibility? Medically, it was his, but if the 
"serious case" escaped from the hospital, Security got the "cigar". 
I have put "hospital" escapes together in a later chapter, but they 
were, and to me still are, a very sore point But we made our greatest 
error ever, over the Parcel Office. The French General le Brigant 
asked for one of his officers to be allowed to check the sacks contain- 
ing private parcels when they arrived from France at Colditz 
station. He also asked for his Parcel Officer to be allowed to make 
up a list of the addressees from the labels. This double request was 
allegedly made because (a) sacks had been found broken into when 
they got to the castle and (4) the Germans were not very clever at 
making out names in French. A parole was accepted that the 
officer concerned "would not while so occupied escape or make any 
escape preparations or do anything to the injury of the German 
Reich". The officer concerned, who spoke good French and German 
(being from Lothringen) held this office permanently, as we agreed 
he kept strictly to his parole.* 

The escape figures for the year 1941 are interesting. Altogether 
104 prisoners took part in 49 attemps. The English who tried to get 
away numbered 35, of whom 33 were caught during the attempt, a 
were caught outside the camp, and o made the home run. The cor- 
responding figures for other nationalities were : French, 30, 6, 14, 10; 
Belgian, 6, 6, o, o; Polish, 19, 10, 8, i ; Dutch 14, 8, 2, 4. 

* Year* later, on reading the French story of Colditz, I discovered how wrong 
we were. See Les Indomptablts by General Le Brigant 


Private Enterprise 

THE TURN of the year is perhaps a good point in this story to take 
a breather from the uninterrupted chronicle of escape and attempts 
to escape that had gone on -without a break in one sense, yet with 
too many breakaways in another, ever since I arrived at Colditz 
way back in November 1940. 

One aspect of our relationship with the prisoners was the matter 
of "correctness". The prisoners took every possible opportunity to 
nag us about this, but never once in five years did any of their senior 
officers call for proper behaviour towards us on the part of their own 
men (so far as we knew). Indiscipline, I can truly say, was the un- 
spoken order of the day on their side ; indiscipline often amounting 
to plain personal insolence, or at least studied offhandedness. 

The Dutch officers offended least of all in this respect, and as their 
escape record was the best, having regard to their numbers, I cannot 
see that this kind of attitude to us served any purpose, beyond allow- 
ing prisoners to work off their repressions. 

On the other hand, there were occasions when they would dance 
on the other foot. I remember one request for a book which I did 
not wish to issue to one of the British. His note began, "As this book 
refers to the battle of Waterloo, the last occasion your troops had the 
honour to serve under British command . . ."( !) I issued the book. 

Another began, "I should be glad if you would permit me to have 
this book. It is largely a satire on the stupidness, emptyheadedness 
and incompetence of the British landed gentry." I issued this one too. 

One day I was searching an English officer, a newcomer to the 
camp, when he said, "I am the guest of the Third Reich, and I hope 
you will value this honour !" 

The OKW required a propaganda officer on every PW camp staff. 
We battled for a long time against this appointment at Colditz. 
What an utter waste of time ! These people were the stoniest possible 
ground for such airy-fairy seed. We did distribute the weekly 
propaganda papers in different languages that we had froni Berlin 
the Trait d'Umon and the Camp, but they were harmless anyway 
and this was the best way to be rid of them ! At first, theBritish Senior 
Officer at Colditz confiscated all copies of this latter weekly, refusing 
to let his officers read it on the grounds that it might be subversive. 
He soon realized how harmless the publication was, and it circulated 
freely till finally ending up as fud. 



Most French officers in Colditz abhorred the collaboration of the 
Pitain-Laval Government in France and thought it their duty more 
than ever to show their disapproval by hostility to us both in word 
and deed. Politically, we had no approach at all to the British. 

Anti-Semitism didn't get us very far either. We had a number of 
French-Jewish officers in Colditz. They were put hi a separate room, 
which became known as "The Ghetto". There was a little sympathy 
for them at being so singled out, but I think they preferred to all be 
together. Certainly they played as active a part proportionately in 
escape matters as any of the others. No hostility to them among the 
PWs was ever openly expressed. Some of the French, to tell the 
truth, were hostile to the British, but we got nothing out of such 
undercurrents as showed themselves, for instance, during a reading 
in French of Joan of Arc in the courtyard. 

The Poles used to court-martial each other, it was said, but kept 
all these dissensions very much to themselves. We heard that duels 
were due to be fought out after the war, but we never discovered 
the identity of the disputants, and so had no opening here to divide 
and rule ! 

The Dutch disciplined their officers with "Room Arrest*', which 
was much the same punishment, basically, as "Stubenarrest" in the 
German Army, but, again, this was quite normal procedure, and 
we had no chance whatever of exploiting a disgruntled subaltern. 

The British, in 1944, suffered a migration of their more undisci- 
plined younger officers to what had been once the Ghetto, and later 
the Belgian quarters. This last company had by then long left the 
camp but their name remained. This group of British "activists" was 
in fact known as "The Belgians" and prided itsdf thereon. They 
issued challenges of every kind to the rest of the British company 
and at one time seemed to be a thorn in the side of their own senior 
officer. But never did we profit as "tertius gaudens" from these 
subdivisions inside the five national groups in the camp, which 
differences indeed we bardy suspected. 

There were only two possible common factors between us and the 
Allied prisoners. One was hostility to Bolshevism; the other was 
common achievements in broadly cultural or technical matters. 
We did have one or two volunteers for the anti-Bolshevist front, but 
as hardened escapers those concerned were not to be trusted, being 
plainly out for a free ride over the first obstacle to freedom the 
ring around the Schloss. 

Eventually being entrusted by the OKW with the hopeless task 
of Propaganda Officer, near the end of the war I got a meagre 
attendance at lectures on the historical background of Germany 
with especial reference to the Reformation, literature, science, and 
so on. I once asked one of the British officers why he attended, and 


received the reply, "Well, I think I'd like a job in the Army of 
Occupation, and your lectures make a very good German lesson.'* 
I also gave them copies of Research and Progress, a very good technical 
publication which we issued in English and French. And as long as 
this line wasn't sledge-hammered in, it could be considered a hopeful 
way of gaining the prisoners' attention the first step in propaganda. 

Through the years I showed films in the castle theatre, but yells of 
"propaganda" arose at the slightest excuse. Once or twice we sent 
groups down to the town cinema, after everyone going had signed the 
usual parole "not to escape, make preparations for escape, or in any 
way injure the German Reich", but some sort of row blew up each 
time and in the end the cinema manager said, "No more of that lot, 

The British, a few times, were allowed out to use the town football 
ground under guard. Oh, what a smart crowd marched down yes, 
marched through the town! Nothing like the rabble that each 
afternoon slopped down to our park and back. First-class turnout 
boots polished free chocolate for the kids boisterous, healthy 
enthusiasm while playing rugby. These football excursions did not 
last, for we found ourselves the victims of a magnificent piece of 
counter-propaganda, largely staged by us. My success as Propa- 
ganda Officer, therefore, and I admit it, was 100 per cent nil. 

The Christmas and New Year spirit of 1941-2 ebbed slowly away. 
Thick heads both sides of the wire profited by the sun and snow. 
LO i went off on leave to recover. I took his place. Maybe that 
tunnel, ever on our minds, was going to break under my nose? 
Obviously, until it did, there could be no close season for escaping. 
In feet, there never was any let-up whatsoever right up to the end, 
over four long years. 

The first event of any note for the New Year 1942 was the transfer 
of a group of thirty-one French officers to Oflag 4D Elsterhorst. 
Insignificant though this transfer seemed to be, a fortnight later it 
raised Cain in the ranks of the French company at Colditz. Only 
one incident marred the operation. 

Between Dobdn and Riesa Lieut. Bykhowetz got out of the car- 
riage window and along the running-board to a safe place between 
the carriages. However, he was seen climbing along the train, and 
two guards followed him outside along the icy steps in the freezing 
cold. Bykhowetz retreated as they advanced and all three finished up 
on the buffers at the very end of the train. Bykhowetz was making up 
his mind to jump. The guards were simply waiting for the train to 
stop before they could grab him. Realizing that if he jumped the 
guards would jump as well, and there would be no getting away, 
Bykhowetz stayed where he was and, when the train drew to a stop 
he was a prisoner once more* 


On January 7th we found four officers had gone "spurlos ver- 
schwunden' 9 vanished without trace ! Those missing were two Dutch 
lieutenants, Luteyn and Donkers, and two British, Neave and Hyde- 
Thomson. Their senior officers gladly and most unexpectedly gave 
us their names, without putting us to the trouble of finding out 
exactly who had got away. How very suspicious ! How very damn- 
ably sure they must have been of themselves and their mysterious 
bolt-hole ! And not a breath of suspicion to be traced anywhere 
around our ring of guards. 

We ran another of our special searches, from 10 a.m. to 2 in the 
afternoon of that day, keeping over 500 prisoners in the cold of the 
yard while we did it. The noise was so loud, unceasing and so 
threatening, that the Kreisleiter phoned from the town to ask what 
was up. He said the townspeople were getting upset! We found 
nothing. Tiger and his dogs went round the outside of the Schloss 
along the upper edge of the park, looking for a tunnel exit or traces 
in the snow. No luck at all. 

By then the OKW was getting worried. They began to ask about 
the "spoil** from an obvious tunnel which we had been reporting off 
and on for weeks. They bombarded us with questions and advice. 
One night they rang up, "Is Romilly there? Is Rtrril there?" We sent 
the Riot Squad NCO to his cell. "Yes, he's there. No, there's not 
somebody in his place. No, it's not a dummy. We've been in and 
woken him up. 9 ' Trying to catch us, eh? 

Five days after the four vanished we clawed back a point. The 
railway police at Ulm had let two suspicious Dutch electrical 
workers cany on with their journey through, on the 8th, the day 
after the escape from Colditz. But when two more arrived by the 
same train at the same time the next day, going likewise to Tutt- 
lingen, the police questioned them a little more closely, and finally 
phoned us that they had Lieuts. Hyde-Thomson and Donkers, of 
our address, if we wished to collect them. Neave and Luteyn got 
over the Swiss frontier successfully. 

A few days later I found our Emil trotting round the yard. I hadn't 
seen Romilly taking exercise like this before. 

"What does this mean?" I asked jokingly. "In training?" 

"Aha !" he replied, "when it's my turn to make the trip I must be 

"Well," I thought, "that's a smart reaction. If Romilly has it in 
mind to be away too, the exit must be from inside the castie and not 
down in the park. Romilly never leaves the castle yard." 

This exit could really only be found by the Senior Duty Officer, 
who at this time was myself, co-operating with the staff NCOs, 
Mussolini and Dixon Hawkc, who were in charge of the orderlies 
and daily jobs in the prisoners' quarters and yard. This was our 


world. We knew more about it than anybody else. Something just 
had to be done. The Kommandant and Security Officer were 

So we three held a meeting and, unknown to the Kommandant 
and the Security Officer, made out the following Plan : 

(1) To list every conceivable place where an exit could have been 

(2) To concentrate on unoccupied rooms. 

(3) To report any comments, however casual, made by the 
prisoners during conversation with us. 

(4) To keep the search quiet from all our own people. 

This last point arose for two reasons: 

(a) Kommandant and Security were in a panic over these 
escapes by yet another unknown route. What would 
happen to them if Romilly should get away? 

(b) There were one or two in our own Mess who would have 
been delighted at any further escapes, since these would 
show that our "tame" policy towards the prisoners just 
did not pay. 

We wanted no excitement over this job that we had set ourselves 
and certainly no more mass searches. We felt that just a few of us 
working in the spirit of private enterprise would do very much better. 

Having made our plan to search all the parts of the castle not 
occupied in the normal way, Mussolini, Dixon Hawke and I started 
on our more or less private search. 

First we looked into the big cellar under the French quarters in 
the west, or cellar, block. Nothing but potatoes here, the walls all 
solid stonework or natural rock. No suspicion of an indication of any 
digging here. Next we searched the former wine cellar, long since 
empty of bottles. Often I had examined the walls, which were also 
partly cut into the natural rock. We found nothing. How near we 
were had we but known it! But we were looking for one escape 
route in reality there were two. 

We left the potato cellar and next day we searched the chapel. 
We moved the altar aside nothing underneath. We went through 
the sacristy pretty thoroughly nothing there. We inspected the 
organ and the deep window niches everything in order, even to the 
layers of dust 

By the isth we had discovered nothing. On parade that morning 
no one was missing, so we felt safe for another day. On the other 
hand, we had felt just the same the previous week when four officers 
had been found missing and, furthermore, must have been missing 
and somehow covered up for more than one roll-call. 


That morning the theatre was down on our list for search. This 
was on the third floor of the Saalhaus. It was used for plays, concerts, 
FT, boxing, fencing, lectures, and so on. We occupied some of the 
ground floor of that block, so there wasn't much prospect of finding 
a tunnel. The south end of the upper floors, occupied by the 
prisoners, had windows looking out over our own yard, or else was 
walled off from our north wing. The west front of this building 
looked out over the approach yard between the archway and the 
guardroom, the back adjoined the orderlies 5 quarters, which looked 
out over the prisoners* yard. 

We went over the theatre floor, tapped the walls, looked up at the 
ceiling, examined the window bars, and inspected the small green- 
rooms each side of the stage. Then we came to the stage itself. There 
it was just a stage. I ran my eye over it, and my mind around it. 
Was there a trapdoor in this stage, I wondered? How deep was it 
underneath? And then had we ever looked under the stage? The 
Ferret said we never had, as far as he could remember. So I told 
him to get down into the prompter's box and shine his torch around. 

Fouine prised a board out of the prompter's steps and did what I 
said. I told him to climb in and search around under the boards. 
He couldn't get through the hole, being too fat, and I was on the 
point of giving up the idea. However, we had made a rule, and that 
demanded that we inspect every single surface, even the most 
unlikely ones. Seeking a further reason for the extra mental effort on 
my part, and the extra physical one on the Ferret's, or someone 
else's, I thought we might find a hide under the stage. So I went 
down to the guardroom and told them to send the smallest man they 
had up to the theatre, to force a way through and have a look at this 
slightly suspected space under the stage. I was still in the guardroom 
ten minutes later when the man came hurrying down again "Herr 
Hauptmann we have found a hole under the stage." 

I rushed back upstairs, to find they had broken away all the 
prompter's steps, crawled to the back and found a hole about two 
feet square in the flooring. Fouine had pulled out a plaster-covered 
framework which covered the hple, fixed with turn-buckles to the 
joists each side. The floor under the stage was, at the back, the 
ceiling of an unused cul-de-sac below, that came from the German 
quarters on the upper floor of the guardroom building. We had never 
taken measurements of all the floors as this passageway was never 
used, and it was behind a locked door on our side. So we had left the 
prisoners a very simple barrier:, no more than a floor-ceiling between 
their quarters plus a door iiito a passage on our side to get through. 
What's more, the passage ran from the Saalhaus building, to the 
guardroom building, over the top of the yard gate! There was 
even a window in it above the gate. Never seeing anyone at this 


window, the PWs must have worked out that here was some more 
dead ground for them to work in! They did not have to break 
through a vertical wall they simply had little more than to drop 
through a horizontal one of lath and plaster. I went down to the 
guardroom, up the stairs, along the passage over the gate, through a 
door and arrived at the dead end under the back of the stage. We 
had taken the framework out and there was the hole in the ceiling 
large enough to take a man through without brushing off the plaster 
each side. So confident had they been over this exit that no camou- 
flage to speak of had been used to cover the framework on the 
top side, and close alongside, under the stage, we found a rope made 
of bed-sheets, for lowering the escapers to the floor underneath. 
This was obviously how the four of them had got out the week 

The corridor ran back over the yard gate to the top floor of the 
guardroom building, and from there a spiral staircase descended 
past our officers 9 Mess, or Casino as we called it, down past the 
guard quarters on the first floor, and so to a passage outside the 
guardroom on the ground floor. 

We checked back, interviewing guards. Naturally no one re- 
membered anything a week after the event, but some one or more 
of them must have let four prisoners past, two on each of two 
occasions, presumably in perfect disguise as German military per- 
sonnel. That meant they had not been stopped for their passes. This 
was a breach of one of our most important orders, one which we 
could never get properly observed. We worked out all the possi- 
bilities, and in the end decided there was only one way the four 
could have taken, and that was straight past the guardroom at the 
foot of the staircase, out of the guardroom entrance into the approach 
yard and on under the archway into the German yard. Now from 
here we did find there was a possible way out, completely unguarded. 
At the south-west corner of our yard the way led again under an 
archway, and over a bridge, crossing the old moat or ditch, to the 
main gate. At the inner end of the bridge there was a wicket gate 
and a path leading down into the moat and along to the married 
quarters as a short cut Officers going out for hospital treatment 
could have noticed this wide-open gap in our defences, and made a 
mental note of it for future use. 

More precautionary measures were once again forced upon us. 
To begin with, we walled up the wicket gate, and made a new door 
in view of the gatehouse guard. Then we closed the theatre, 
which didn't hurt anybody really, and moved our officers' Mess 
from over the guardroom to the comparative safety of the German 
yard. Sarcastic comments from the "opposition" in our Mess. The 
prisoners were driving us out of our own Casino! Who runs this 


joint? The door at the top of the guardroom stairs, which led to this 
dead-end passage, was doubly bolted. The horses, however, had 
gone. Two never came back. But I got a week's leave and a bottle 
of champagne from the Kommandant for my discovery up in the 

The success of our trio, Mussolini, Dixon Hawke and myself, 
earned us the most vicious hatred of the French company. It also 
earned me the nickname of Tartuffe, due, no doubt, to my habit of 
suppressing all my hostile or unpleased reactions beneath a some- 
what strained and wavering grin, I would not lose my temper to 
these tormentors whose insults were undoubtedly directed at me 
personally, as well as at me a$ a German officer. I may have made an 
unfavourable impression on the French company, but really it was 
better that way. Personally, I was naturally upset to have aroused 
so much hatred, but as this arose from my job I took it as the 
measure of my success. 

However, while we had found an exit that we hadn't suspected, 
we still had to find the tunnel. On January I4th, the day after we 
found that theatre hole, we whipped the English down to a building 
outside the castle for the day, while we put itheir quarters, as it were, 
through a sieve. We did not find much, and they replaced some- 
thing of what they lost by stripping the building we put them into 
temporarily of all available fittings. Two of them were found in 
hiding when it was time to come back to the castle, but I think they 
were just mere face-savers to show that the spirit was willing, al- 
though the weather was dreadful. 

Still no tunnel. We did find one entry though, in the floor over the 
canteen below the British Long Room. This showed traces of tunnel- 
ling in the hollow space between the vaulting and the floor, but the 
workings were only on a small scale. 

My private Search Committee met again. Had we really been 
over every single surface, up or down and sideways, in every single 
unoccupied space in the Schloss? We crossed off the attics, theatre, 
cellars and our minds wandered round the rooms, floors, landings, 
corridors, buttresses and entrances that we knew so well. 

Suddenly I thought of the dock tower in the north-west corner 
of the yard, at the corner where the north, or chapel, side of the 
yard met die west block, or Kcllcrhaus (Cellarhousc). On the 
ground floor of the Cdlarhouse were the parcel office and stores, 
and the infirmary. Above, on ist, and, 3rd and top floors were the 
French company. Over a year previously we'd found two French 
officers digging at the very bottom of the tower. We had thereupon 
bricked up the doors giving access to the floorings inside this tower 
one on each floor level. The clock weights used to hang down inside 
through holes in the tower floors, but the dock had never worked in 


our time, and the weights and cables had been removed by our 
Security Officer in 1940. We had never, now we thought it over, 
looked inside this vertical shaft. The top was sealed off with beams. 
We'd often stood on them in the attic. I arranged an inspection of 
the clock tower for January I5th. That morning, I sent Mussolini 
to the top of the tower to get a couple of beams off and shine a light 
down below. Mussolini moved two beams from the top of the shaft 
and saw a light and heard movement down below. He looked down 
the canvas pipe, down which the clock weights used to hang, 
passing through holes in the landings in the tower. He had a boy 
with him expressly to lower down this shaft. The boy went down the 
rope and immediately started to shout: "There's someone here." 

Three French officers were down there, caught in the act, shifting 
rubble. Fifty feet above ground we'd found the way down into their 
tunnel. The French terrified the boy on his rope with threats, while 
they bashed their way out through a half brick side wall. Mussolini 
sent for help. He couldn't fire down the shaft because of the boy and 
we hadn't even put guards on each of the three floor exits from the 
tower landings which we had bricked up in 1941. There seemed no 
point in that. The French burst through into a bathroom, actually 
into a bath (occupied), and escaped. 

I was told all this after I had hurried over from my quarters and 
had gone up to see what Mussolini had discovered. I had the lowest 
door into the shaft broken open. We climbed in and looked up 
through, the holes in the floors. A vertical approach again, like the 
air shaft down to our kitchen like the hole down from the stage ! 
Stacks of treasure trove fell into our hands tools, clothes, but only, 
alas, twenty-three marks in German money. Still, we had found the 
start of the tunneL It began, of all places, right at the top of the 
building hardly the place to look for an underground tunnel ! But 
still we hadn't found the main run of the prisoners* tunnel only the 
start of it. They got into this vertical shaft which we had, in effect, 
presented them with a year previously, by moving the beams at the 
top, and then what? They got down to the bottom of the shaft and 
into the cellar by this simple, unobserved way. But from somewhere 
in the cellar there must be a horizontal shaft. We went down and 
looked around. There was no hole anywhere in the floor or in the 

I left a sentry down in the cellar and went off to report and 
think. The sentry was a bright lad. He got a hammer and tapped 
away at every square foot of all the four walls of that cellar and the 
floor as well, and in the end he found a loose square of stonework 
and there, behind it, was the entrance to the tunnel. 

But this horizontal shaft did not run north by the shortest route 
to outside the wire. It went due east under the chapel. Great iron- 


hard and centuries-old supporting beams under the chapel floor 
had been sawn right through. A single track line and trolley served 
to bring back the rubble from the working face to the foot of the 
tower up which it was hauled to the roof and disposed of under the 
attics, as we knew. An electric lighting and signalling system had 
been installed. This was run from the circuit in the sacristy and was 
controlled from there when necessary, under cover of the "religious 
and cultural ceremonies" which we so foolishly had permitted six 
months previously. Why had they gone east under the chapel, and 
not the shortest way out due north? We thought they had sus- 
pected a crypt. 

At the end of the chapel, the tunnel went down vertically for 
more than twenty feejt to get under the foundations, and then out 
again towards the steep slope of the park. I crawled to the end and 
right out to the working face. Over my head I could just hear, now 
and then, the sentries marching up and down. There were only 
about thirty more feet to go. The earth was soft and easy to work. 
We were only just in time. 

The French were quite certain that the tunnel had been given 
away through injudicious talk by some of their number who had 
recently been transferred to Elstcrhorst, but that was not true. The 
circumstances of the start of our inspection of the clock tower that 
morning showed that we had had absolutely no idea of what was 
waiting for us. We certainly never expected to find the entrance to a 
tunnel right up under the roof. If we had indeed had a tip-off about 
this, we certainly should at least have put sentries on each floor up 
against the bricked-up tower entrances. This find was one of those 
lucky chances that happen occasionally if one follows a sound 
principle long enough. In this case our rule was to close in slowly 
and methodically upon a suspected danger spot, ignoring lack of 
results until the job was finished, whether successfully or unsuccess- 
fully. This was indeed a find at least six months of work must 
have gone into this tunnel project We were all cock-a-hoop 
especially the Kommandant. He gave our Search Committee special 
leave as a reward, and in a fit of generosity included the man who'd 
actually found the entrance in the cellar among the beneficiaries ! 


Overconfidencc Undermined 

IT MAY have been the general reaction of fury and helpless rage 
over the discovery of the chapel tunnel, particularly among the 
French officers, that provoked the incident involving Lieut. Verkest 
of the Belgian company. This officer went just too far one morning, 
in his refusal to salute the Duty Officer, and to take his hands out of 
his pockets when ordered to. This occurred when all were lined up 
for parade and in the immediate presence of a number of other 
officers. A court-martial was ordered on a charge of disobeying an 
order. The local lawyer, the ex-prisoner-of-war from England, 
undertook the defence. The hearing was due in March, till when 
Verkest remained in arrest. 

Meanwhile, we wrangled long and loud with the prisoners, over 
the repairs to be done in the clock tower, under the chapel and in the 
attics. Who was going to pay for this and for the removal of several 
tons of rubble? A local contractor wanted twelve thousand marks 
nearly a thousand pounds for the clearance job ! He had to fill up 
the holes with concrete as well, by the way. The Kommandant made 
a forced levy out of all prisoners' pay. Prisoners were entitled to half 
their home rate of pay at an exchange rate of so many marks to their 
own currency (15 marks to the English ). This was given them in 
camp marks not legal tender. The Swiss Government held the 
real cash, which both we and the Allies paid up as backing for 
camp money issued on both sides. The OKW came into the tunnel 
dispute at the prisoners' request, and ruled against this collective 
fine. They ordered the repayment of these sums, arguing that this 
was a collective punishment and the Kommandant had no authority 
to inflict it. They said it was illegal under the Geneva Convention. 
We lost face at first, but regained it, and our money, by a happy 
interpretation of the same Convention, supported this time by the 
barrack-room lawyers of the OKW. 

We used the canteen profits, which under the Convention, as we 
so happily noted, might be used "for the benefit of the prisoners". 
Obviously, we said, it was to the prisoners* advantage that the roof 
should not collapse upon them or the floor in their so valuable chapel 
should not subside beneath them ! And there was no gainsaying that ! 

As to defence measures we closed the chapel indefinitely. It had 
teen misused. We also buried microphones every thirty feet all round 
the outside of the prisoners' buildings. More brand new tools found 



in the dock tower again showed that the bribery and corruption 
of our guard company was still rampant. The OKW ordered their 

One might now have thought that the loss of two major hopes, 
the British exit under the stage and the French tunnel under the 
chapel, plus the frightful cold (20 below zero Centigrade), would 
have lowered the prisoners* will to active resistance. Far from it! 
A year or two under prison restraint does not necessarily break a 
man's spirit. Some, indeed, do go down. On the other hand, some 
undoubtedly profit by the experience, both at the time, and in later 
life as well. 

In January we had an escape from an unexpected quarter. Medical 
and religious personnel were to some extent privileged under the 
Geneva Convention. We allowed doctors and ministers, as well as 
Red Cross orderlies, to go outside the limits of the park for exercise. 
They went out on walks in the Colditz Forest, more ''escorted" by 
one guard than guarded by several. We certainly didn't think that 
they would try to get away. On this occasion, the irrepressible 
French priest, Jean-Jean, and their doctor, Leguet, made a break 
while out in the woods. There was only one guard to the group of 
five, and he could not, of course, stop them. They got as far as 
Saarbriicken before recapture, in civilian clothes, with the usual 
false papers on them and German money. This escape we felt to be a 
breach of trust. In any case, privileged or not privileged, these two 
took their twenty-one days* cells without protest! 

Still undeterred by nearly a month of defeat, the prisoners carried 
on undaunted with their regular business of attempting to escape. 
Hoping to profit by the distraction of all the recent excitement, a 
Dutch cadet officer, Linck, nearly got out in a cartload of sacks 
filled with empty cartons from the parcel office. The orderlies were 
in the know but, try as they could, linck's weight required two of 
them for that particular sack, whereas all the others were light 
enough for one man. The NCO in the parcel office was on the alert 
and so Linck was discovered. 

In view of the escape of three French officers at Christmas from 
the town dentist, we thought it safer for the latter to come up to the 
castle to give treatment. One day his hat and fur coat were stolen by 
the waiting "patients". After a long wrangle we took 3520 marks out 
of the canteen profits in return. It was surely "to their advantage" 
to have dental treatment available? LO i got his usual fun out of the 
event "This coat costs 320 marks," he announced. "The next 
one will cost 1,000." 

The indiscipline in the camp never ceased to have its effect in the 
cold war between staff and prisoners. LO i was held largely 
responsible for this. We had some argument about it. As senior 


Duty Officer, had he not started off, right back in 1940, on the 
wrong foot? This sort of life was no joke, and we felt it was he who 
had set the tone of our relations from the beginning, and that it was 
the wrong tone entirely. Besides, he liked his drink, and everyone, 
the prisoners and ourselves, knew it There were some stand-up 
rows in the Mess about him, and in the end, although he was well 
in with the Kommandant, LO i was helped upstairs to the post of 
Deputy Kommandant, which kept him out of the prisoners* yard 
pretty well altogether. At the same time, his sharpest critic, LO 4, 
was posted down in the town, in charge of the Indian prisoners in 
the Schtttzenhaus camp there. 

It fell to me now to bear the maximiiTn brunt of contact with the 
"bad boys", with three roll-calls and several arguments per day to 
work from. I had been doing ibis work while LO i was on leave, and 
shortly after his return and promotion I found myself in his shoes 
as the new No. i Duty Officer. 

When Mussolini and the Ferret got back from their special leave 
after our recent successes, there was still just one more place on the 
list of "unoccupied quarters'*, that we had not visited. This was a 
kind of buttress on the eastern outer wall of the castle. It looked 
rather like a lift shaft or an outside staircase built up the side of a 
house. I asked a paymaster, who knew the place from before the war, 
as an asylum, whether this was a solid or a hollow construction. "It's 
solid," he said. "I know this place from boyhood. I've been every- 
where in this castle. You can't get in there." 

Before we made up our minds to search this last possible hole on 
our list, however, the prisoners showed that our list wasn't complete ! 

February 2ist was a Saturday, time for a slight week-end 
relaxation, perhaps. But no ! 

The yard sentry reported a missing bar in the end inner window 
of the British Long Room, over the canteen. Our Duty Officer and 
Fouine came in to inspect the break. Several bars had, in fact, been 
removed from the window, which gave on to a narrow piece of flat 
roof, on top of the one-storey building on the south side of the 
prisoners' yard. 

A tunnel had been dug in the deep snow on this roof, right out 
from the window and as dose as possible along the back wall of our 
quarters which rose up sheer the full four floors on the north side 
of the German yard. 

This piece of flat roof came to an end ten feet out from the Long 
Room window, against the side of a sloping slate roof which covered' 
some sort of attic over the ceiling of the Conference Room below. 
This attic no one of us, till then, had ever entered or even noticed. 
The prisoners had beaten us to it into this penthouse, barely fifteen 
feet square, with two dormer windows which had never been opened, 


in our time, overlooking the prisoners' yard. Here was an unoccupied 
"room", of whose very existence our special search squad was 
completely unaware ! 

As Fouine wriggled along the tunnel, one of the dormer windows 
opened and a shower of tools landed in the snow a dozen feet below. 
Willing hands snaffled them up and vanished. As our NCO wormed 
through a gap in the slate-hung side of the penthouse, a figure 
slipped down from the open window, following the tools to the 
ground below and, likewise, disappeared up the corner staircase 
into the British quarters. Our yard sentry watched all this, pop-eyed, 
his rifle not even cocked. There were still two officers in the pent- 
house, and now the Ferret let fly with his revolver as a warning 
against whoever else might make for the window exit 

"Sch ssen Sie mir, bitte, nicht" observed one of them, tortuously 
but politely requesting that no harm might fall upon him. We 
found on these two, Lieuts. Mackenzie and Orr-Ewing, thirty 
German marks, a pass and a compass. Who it was who had escaped 
out of the window, I never found out.* 

An examination of the floor of the penthouse showed that while 
most of it corresponded with the ceiling of the Conference Room 
below, that part nearest the corner of the yard was over an empty 
space between the Evidenz Room and the canteen. This area was 
roughly in the shape of a slice of cheese, six feet wide up against the 
German back wall, and about two feet wide where it narrowed to 
the prisoners* yard. It had no window, but a trapdoor connected the 
attic with this empty place below. 

We hit on the idea of making a passage through the main wall 
between the penthouse and our own quarters, with a door each end 
of it. The wall was six feet thick at this point. One door gave on to 
one of our rooms, the other into the penthouse. We could get through 
the doors and into the penthouse, and then drop down through the 
trapdoor into the empty room and, then, by putting in a small 
access door, we could slip sideways into the Evidenz Room. This 
access route might serve handy if we wished to get into the prisoners' 
yard quickly and entirely unobserved. I can't in point of fact recall 
that we ever did use this route, but more than once the PWs tried 
to use it, in our direction. In fact, only a few days after this new 
piece of work had been completed, we surprised two officers in the 
attic, fiddling with the lock on one of our new doors, the one on their 
side of the wall. They got away, but we put bolts on our side of that 
door as well for additional precautions. 

Anxious to get to the end of our search list without further 
Interruptions, we finally arranged to tap the suspected buttress on 

* I learnt, many years after the war, on reading The Colditz Story, that the escaper 
cm this occasion was the author of that book, Captain P. R. Reid. 


the outer side of the prisoners' east wall. A few days later we went 
into the yard (unannounced, of course) with a couple of men, and 
moved smartly up the staircase into the Dutch quarters, against 
which this buttress was built. Their warning system seemed to have 
let them down. Learning from our error with the French in the clock 
tower, we put guards on all the floors of this building before we 
started work. This time our surprise and our precautions were fully 

As we broke through into the hollow building (not solid as we 
had been advised), a rope ladder whipped up before our eyes. I 
left the sentries in place and sent for some iron pins, and using these 
as pitons in the side of the shaft we had holed into, I climbed up to 
the top at third-floor level. There, waiting for me, were two Dutch 
officers, Captains Dames and Hagemann. They had been digging a 
tunnel at the foot of this buttress and had gone up the rope ladder 
as we came in. As we reached them they went out sideways through 
the wall. The wall, of course, opened to assist them, and we found 
the hinged door two foot square in the masonry to be at the back 
of their urinal. This was their entrance and exit to the buttress. 
On the urinal side it was camouflaged with the creosote we used to 
hand out so liberally at the earnest request of the Dutch "in the 
interests of hygiene" ! Also on the inside, fortunately, was a guard, 
who held these two officers until we followed them out. 

The treasure was immense. Five whole boxes of clothing, contain- 
ing items of German uniform and complete home-made civilian 
suits, two sacks of cement which we had been missing for some time, 
and best of all two life-size dummies which must have been used to 
cover up the January theatre escapes on parades. We had found one 
dummy in a park attempt in December ; they must have made these 
since then. At roll-calls when the Dutch stood like dummies and 
the dummies stood like Dutch ! 

This Dutch tunnel was new, but it was only fifteen yards to an 
eventual exit in the park almost as dose as the French had got after 
what must have taken months of work under the chapel. 

We put a window at the bottom of this shaft and a light inside it, 
and we checked it every day from outside. 

Next on the list for some excitement came the Stabsartf, the Horse 
Doctor as he was known to the prisoners. He was fairly lenient with 
his patients, and if anyone really looked ill (and saluted him smartly 
too) he let them into the Revier, or Infirmary, without too much 
questioning, where they could lie up for a few days. Imagine his 
fury when, one day, on receipt of certain information (the first and 
very nearly the only occasion that we ever got anything out of a 
stooge), we went straight to one of the beds and found underneath 
the tunnel which the informer had told us of. It hadn't much hope 


of success, but there it was, in a room full of sick prisoners! The 
Tierartf reduced the number by half on the spot 

The Kommandant stopped the walk to the park as well. He knew 
he couldn't do it for long, but he would annoy the few ever going out 
for a walk that fearful winter for a few days, just until they could get 
an "antrag't or complaint, in to higher authorities and get his ruling 
reversed. And he also stopped the sale of beer. I don't think that had 
much effect either because, as we knew, the prisoners were now 
making their own wine from raisins and distilling was well on in the 
experimental stage. 

The war in the Far East was going badly for the Allies. Singapore 
fell, Hong Kong, Java and all the Dutch islands. The Scharnhorst got 
through the Channel. In a British diary I found an entry under 
March iath : "Debate the rot has set in? motion carried." Naval 
setbacks always hit the British hardest. 

Two months after the discovery of the French tunnel, cartloads of 
rubble were still coming down from the attics. The orderlies loaded 
it into a cart (only one was available) and this trotted back and forth 
to the town rubbish dump. 

It was only a matter of time before Lieut. Desjobert got into the 
cart during the lunch break, while the driver and his horse were out 
of the yard for their meal. When the work started again the officer 
was covered by the French and British orderlies with the first few 
shovelfuls of rubble as intended, but unfortunately they put too 
much over him and he began to stifle when the load moved off. He 
managed to last as far as the main street of the town, but there he 
had to get out from under and breathe. Soldiers in the town brought 
him back to the castle. The "zigarre" this time came to me first, as I 
was LO i. I passed it on to Mussolini, as being in charge of the 
orderlies, and he shrugged it off on the guard who was actually 
supervising the loading. He passed it back to the guardroom, saying 
anyway the final check was theirs to carry out. We had, you may 
remember, told the NCOs in charge of the guard, whenever bulk 
loads came in or out they were to probe with their bayonets. They 
had omitted to do this and the escape nearly succeeded. At the same 
time, it showed how responsibility became scaled down as between 
orders at top level and performance at the bottom. No doubt the 
burden of responsibility passes as quickly upwards or downwards in 
the German Army as in any other! 

At the end of that month of March, the prisoners showed that they 
had still not given up the idea of breaking through from their 
quarters into the Kommandantur side of the German yard where 
they joined. The attic approach by means of the snow tunnel had 
failed. Now Lieut, van Lynden managed to get through the over- 
lapping floor of the Dutch quarters into the guard quarters below, 


on our side, where at the time there was, or should have been, no one 
at all. It was a Sunday afternoon and all quiet. Van Lynden was 
disguised as a German officer. When he was safely down he took a 
broom and began to sweep away traces of the plaster knocked down 
from above, while his comrades fixed up a camouflage. But a sentry 
interrupted from behind a cupboard, saying, "Please, Captain, 
would it not be better for me to do the sweeping?" It was one of our 
own men who had stayed behind that afternoon, had heard a noise 
above and had hidden while van Lynden came down through the 

The last event of March was the court-martial of the Belgian 
officer, Lieut. Verkest, who had flatly refused recognition of our 
Duty Officer back in January. This was held by the Court to be 
disobedience and Verkest, for that, was sentenced to three years. At 
the same time, during the court-martial, Verkest revealed that the 
group of thirty-three Belgian officers in Colditz had agreed to dis- 
obey the Kommandant's orders about saluting although, in our 
view, they were subject to his discipline under the Convention. 

They had also passed a resolution concerning those members of the 
Belgian Armed Forces who had given their parole to us and returned 
to freedom. The Court held this, as well as the group refusal to 
salute, to be an "agreement to disobey orders concerning duty 
matters", and therefore mutiny. Verkest was sentenced to death. 
Sentence was suspended for three months. The Head of State must 
confirm it. After a while the papers came back from the OKW with 
Hitler's marginal note "Loss of freedom sufficient". The Court sat 
again at Leipzig (on July a ist) ; Verkest was sentenced to two years. 
By the time he was out the Belgians had left Colditz. 

This death sentence shook the prisoners, as I think nothing else 
ever did. The battle for salutes quietened down. A few weeks later, 
the Tierartf, our great champion at the saluting base (although we 
could have done without his enthusiasm), left the camp. He was 
replaced by the doctor from the French generals' camp at K6nig- 

The month of March chalked us up yet one more success, to make 
it the most favourable quarter we ever knew on that cold front 
between the prisoners and their freedom. 

It so happened that about this time we had one of our periodic 
visits from members of the International Red Cross. They came to see 
that all was well with the supply, either directly, or as directed by 
them, of food parcels to the prisoners from the different Allied 
countries on the one hand, or from relatives on the other. 

I should perhaps lead up to our discovery of the use to which 
some parcels were put by saying something about the system and the 
supplies which it passed through to prisoners-of-war in Germany. 


Food parcels were more or less standardized to weigh about 10 Ib. 
each. They came from different countries and the British prisoners 
received them from England, Australia, Canada and United States, 
in bulk. In addition, four private parcels could be sent per annum 
to each prisoner, from families or friends, and we controlled the 
arrival of these parcels by an arrangement whereby they might only 
be sent against a special type of label which was issued in the 
permitted quantity to the person authorized. Private parcels usually 
contained clothing or books. Cigarette parcels were also allowed to 
individuals in unlimited quantity. Besides food, the Red Cross also 
sent bulk consignments of cigarettes and tobacco for distribution 
among the inmates of the camps. From 1941 onwards the supply of 
parcels of different kinds was regular enough to keep at least all the 
British prisoners decently clothed, and sufficient also to provide one 
food parcel per week for each prisoner in their ranks, as well as 
fifty cigarettes a week. 

The French received food parcels mainly from private sources, 
but they did have a certain amount of bulk supply in the form of 
what they called "Singe" or "Monkey** which was tinned meat from 
their Army reserve. It came from Madagascar. I remember the 
name Antananarivo (Tanarive) on the tins. They also had large 
quantities of "Biscuits P6tain", French army biscuits, which they 
exchanged with the British for cigarettes at the rate of one for one. 
The Poles and Dutch had private food parcels but in no such quan- 
tity as the British mass or private supplies, so that they were not 
particularly well off for food or clothes or cigarettes at any time 
during the war. 

From 1 945? onwards it would be true to say that most of the Colditz 
prisoners were better fed than the German civilians in the town, 
at least as regards calorie intake. They had chocolates, sugar, butter, 
tinned meat and dried fruit in quantities, and went so far as to make 
wine from their sugar and raisins and to distil from this wine a foully 
intoxicating alcoholic mixture. What they did lack, all of them, was, 
of course, fish arid fresh fruit. All these parcels, together wilt the 
mail, were subjected to a strict censorship on our side. What we 
were after was contraband. I say here and now that we never on any 
occasion found any contraband, or anything that could be described 
as contraband, in the bulk supplies which came from, or through, 
the International Red Cross. We did, however, find a tremendous 
amount of forbidden goods in private clothing parcels and in 
private food parcels, in particular in those which came from France. 
We also found a lot of contraband in the "Welfare" parcels which 
were sent out from England either individually or by under-cover 
organizations. The Red Cross could not possibly connive at this 
game, as it was acting exclusively on humanitarian grounds, and 


indeed was also organizing supplies from Germany to our own 
prisoners in Allied hands. Had there been instances of misuse of this 
authority, there is no doubt that both sides would have suffered and 
the International Red Cross's reputation would have been done 
irreparable harm. 

We were a little late in the contraband stakes, and the prisoners 
were several jumps ahead before we discovered exactly what was 
going on in this line under our very noses* 

One of our censors worked in the book trade in Leipzig. In the 
early part of 1942, he noticed that the covers on some of the books 
that he was handling seemed rather thicker than usual, especially as 
paper was in short supply all over the world. At his suggestion the 
covers of half a dozen books sent by the Prisoner's Leisure Hour 
Fund from Lisbon, were opened up. They were found to contain 
in every case either loo-mark notes, or maps on silk of, for example, 
the Swiss frontier, the Yugoslav frontier, the Dutch and Belgian 
frontiers, the layout of Danzig harbour, and so on. We even found 
tiny hacksaw blades in these covers as well. It then struck us that 
we had recently received and passed on to individual prisoners 
several other parcels from this same source in Lisbon. Something 
had to be done. At least these books must be taken back. That 
meant a visit from me to the British library. 

The British librarian was now the Methodist minister Platt. I 
knew him well. He had heard of me from a mutual friend in England 
before the war. I went over to the prisoners' library and got him to 
give me back several of these Lisbon books. I said I wanted them for 
"statistical purposes". Some of these books were out on loan to 
readers, but Platt promised to get them back, and let me have them, 
by the afternoon. 

Back in the censor's office we found that the books I had collected 
also had unusual covers with valuable contents. 

But when I got the rest of the books that afternoon, I found that 
the covers had all been cut open and emptied, and die endpapers 
stuck back on again. The prisoners must have realized what I was 
after, and had removed the contraband from what till then had been 
a first-rate hiding place. 

From them on, no book covers at all were allowed, and to save 
ourselves trouble we put it through to the OKW and they agreed 
with- us, that the prisoners should be allowed to receive only books 
with paper backs. For once there was no argument in Colditz. 

I admit I played a trick on the Padre with those books. I won half 
the trick and lost the other half. But did he really expect me to say 
we thought there was contraband in these books, and that was why 
I wanted them back? 

We now began to take a very much closer interest in parcels from 


sources other than the International Red Cross. We installed an 
X-ray apparatus and subjected every incoming object without 
exception to its revealing gaze. We then found that the Licensed 
Victuallers Sports Association was also helping most effectively to 
replenish the prisoners' stocks of escape material. Hollow-handled 
tennis rackets contained tiny compasses and hacksaw blades. 
Gramophone records contained maps and yet more money in the 
centre. Playing cards had maps inside them. 

When Wing Commander Bader arrived in 1943, ^ chess set 
produced 1,000 Reichsmarks, three compasses and seven maps ! 

We felt that our X-ray machine would soon put a stop to all this, 
but while it blocked one smuggling route used by the British, I learnt 
(but only over ten years later !) that it merely served to open another 
and better one for the French. 

At Easter 1942, the chapel was still closed for repairs and so the 
Catholics celebrated their Easter ceremonies in their yard. Their 
services were in Latin. The Protestants or sectarians here, and 
elsewhere, celebrated their Easter without saints and song, and much 
more simply. They had their own services, each in his own quarters 
and each in his own tongue. The Jews in Colditz had apparently no 
particular observance of the day of this Christian feast. There was no 
Rabbi among them anyway. 

In the Schiitzenhaus camp in the town, the Indian prisoners 
worshipped Mahommed, turning their faces and kneeling towards 
the east every day. The group of White Russians from the old 1920 
Wrangel Army, prisoners now from the French and Jugoslav Armies, 
cried to each other "Xpnctoc Bockpece! Boucturmo Bockpece!" 
"Christ is risen In truth he has risen" on the occasion of Easter, 
their greatest orthodox feast. 

Christ Mahommed Allah Brahma Buddha. We had in 
Colditz an "International" of religion as well as of race. So had the 
Soviets, but their religion claimed no God but godlessness. I recalled 
Goethe's reply to the rigid immovable dogmatists "What religion 
do you confess?" "None of those that you name." "And why?" 
"On religious grounds." The Soviets had broken the circle. For 
them godlessness was god. A White Russian officer told me how he 
once gave the story of Christ to Soviet prisoners in one of our 
hospitals. They listened to him open-mouthed, as to an unheard-of 
fairy story. 

Four days from the end of April, no less than five "serious medical 
cases" from Colditz escaped from a military hospital at Gnaschwitz, 
near Dresden, where the Tierarzt had sent them for treatment. He 
was wild with fory ! Two were Polish officers, Lieuts. Wychodzew 
and Niestrzeba. These two coolly sent our Kommandant a picture 
postcard from Hof. That meant they were going south-west We 


warned Stuttgart Kriminal polizei, and they picked up the first- 
named at the station after two days at large* I went to collect him. 
Lieut. Niestrzeba was caught in a train the next day at Singen near 
the Swiss frontier, disguised as a Belgian worker, with papers in the 
name of Carl Winterbeck. Unfortunately he also had on him his 
PW number plate, with Oflag 40 on it ! 

The other three "sick" were the Polish lieutenant Just (yet again !), 
the Belgian lieutenant Remy, and the British squadron-leader 
Paddon. These three all posed as Belgian workers. In Leipzig they 
came under suspicion. Just and Remy were being watched when 
Remy suddenly dashed away. We never heard of him again. 
Paddon and Just, who had intended to travel separately, met again 
by chance, and were both picked up while casually talking. There 
was a bad error in their passports. These, of course, were faked. 
Paddon had exactly the same signature on two of his documents, 
although ostensibly issued at different centres, one in Leipzig, the 
other in Dresden. Identical handwriting with Paddon' s appeared on 
Just's pass. Some time later we discovered among papers during a 
search, the Paddon Escape Rules a memorandum written up after 
this escape. Born of experience, this is what they said: 

(1) Travel in slow trains, not by expresses or specials, as no pass is 
required when buying tickets. No control of passes on slow 
trains under the first 100 kilometres. 

(2) Express trains Between Leipzig and Dresden the control is 
carried out by a German sergeant. He requires only our 
identity cards. 

(3) Passes recognized by police as forged because 

(a) they had seen this type of phoney pass before; 

(A) there is no such thing as a Nebenbauamt (Branch Works 

Office) stamp; 

(<?) no such thing as Bauinspektor (Buildings Inspector) ; 
(d) the signatures on Lieut. Just's identity card and mine 

were different, but in the same handwriting; 
() the stamp was poor it was weak and hence illegible ; 
(f) same handwriting in both my passes, although one was 

issued in Leipzig and one in Dresden. 

(4) Brown pass O.K. for identification only. Not for travelling. 
For 24 hours the police thought I was a Belgian. The inter- 
preter in French at Leipzig police station spoke worse French 
than Just and I together! 

(5) Best of all is a leave pass. Everyone asks for it and it commands 
fere reductions; This is the key to everything, and it must be a 
pleasure to travel with a good one. 


(6) Tuttlingen is in the frontier zone. Tickets to Stuttgart issued 
sometimes with and sometimes without identity cards being 

(7) We went from Dresden to Stuttgart via Leipzig. Wish I had 
followed my own intention and not taken the advice of the 
train conductress. 

(8) German civvies better clad than we had thought, especially orf 
Sundays a bad day therefore for travelling. 

(9) It is always possible to get something to eat without having to 
produce coupons. I'll never again carry chocolate or Red 
Cross food. 

(10) Remove all names from clothes, or sew false ones on if you 
have none. Lieut. Just had his name and "Oflag 40" on his 
trousers ! That's why they were so suspicious about my story 
of having just been shot down. Just and I met in Leipzig 
quite by chance after our initial escape. 

(n) Remy, who travelled with Just, made himself conspicuous. 
Both were watched in the train by a civilian (? Gestapo) after 
they had been checked by the sergeant. Rcmy disappeared 
suddenly when they got to Leipzig, while Just was left trying 
in vain to get rid of the overcoat that Rcmy had left behind 
in the compartment. Although he pretended not to see it, 
people pressed it on him as belonging to his friend. I was 
picked up half an hour later as I was speaking to Just, 
thinking he was by then dear of suspicion. 

(12) He travels best who travels alone! 

As I said, I went back to collect Lieut. Wychodzew from Stuttgart 
as soon as die police rang up. On the way back we noticed tremen- 
dous security activity everywhere. The story soon leaked out. The 
French general Giraud had escaped from Kdnigstein. One hundred 
thousand marks were offered for his capture. 

This escape was followed by a general security check over the 
entire Reich. As it was thought that we at Colditz knew more about 
escape precautions than anyone else, our Kommandant, though now 
over seventy years old, together with our Security Officer, was 
ordered to Konigstein to advise on security. Fame at last! The 
Colditz Escape Academy was now getting some recognition from the 
OKW* Either they agreed that we knew more than they did, or 
dse they were passing the buck probably both ! After a week, these 
two officers returned, and I was posted there myself for a week. 
Plainly I had graduated ! The buck was now mine. 

This was at first a temporary move, but on May 26th I went 
again to Konigstein indefinitely. At the same time the Tierarzt left 


Colditz for good. I took some leave before reporting to my new job, 
because the Kornmandant at Kdnigstein had said to me on my first 
brief visit there, "I don't believe in too much leave. Take what you 
can get before you come back here !" I took his advice over Whitsun 


A Reshuffle The Game Goes On 

I STAYED as Security Officer at Kdnigstein until August 1942* It 
was quite a rest cure after Colditz, and I believe that was the last 
summer I enjoyed for the next fifteen years. The camp was situated 
in a castle up on a high plateau, rather like that at Hohnstein, the 
camp where two long years ago I had begun to learn the ways of 
prisoners, in a similar quiet and peaceful setting. 

There were seventy French generals at Kdnigstein, of whom I 
particularly remember Generals Flavigny, Musse, Muscrey, 
Burquairt and Mesny. I searched the quarters pretty thoroughly 
over a period of weeks, looking for a clue to General Giraud's 
escape, but was convinced that if they had a hide, it would be in 
some unoccupied room. I was after a rope of some kind, being quite 
sure that this was the only way that the general could have got out 
of this fortress. 

Sure enough, my Colditz methods yielded the desired result. In an 
attic I found a length of telephone cable. Now we began to fit the 
evidence together. We had found scratches on the rocks at the 
bottom of the cliff below the castle, and we had also found a pair of 
thick gloves down there. On these were fragments of insulating 
material. This was the same material as was round the telephone 
cable. Giraud must have worn the gloves while sliding down the 
cable. At least we now had some pretty genuine answer to the 
question from the OKW, "How did the prisoner get out?" 

As we learned later, from an interview which General Giraud 
gave to an American magazine before the war finished, he eventually 
escaped to Switzerland and then North Africa, where he joined the 
Free, French forces. I spotted this article in a Reader's Digest* and 
sent it up to the OKW as proof of the correctness of my theory at 

General Giraud had received the cable wire from his wife, 
concealed inside a side of ham ! 

The parcels at Kdnigstein were given out uncensored, as security 
measures were very slack there. The general was able to lower 
himself by means of this telephone cable about 100 feet or more 
down the face of the cliff on which the castle was perched, in broad 
daylight after the morning roll-call. He had twelve hours* start in 
any case until the evening roll-call, when his absence was noticed. 

* See Rwkr*s Digest October 1943. ED. 



But for some reason the warning system failed that night. The 
Kommandant and Security Officer were both absent at Dresden, 
and the officer in charge did not seem to grasp the importance of this 
escape. So the general had twenty-four hours* start before his 
absence was noticed. Himmler and Hitler were furious and ordered 
security checks throughout Germany and France, with no result. 
The two senior officers who were ultimately responsible for the 
prisoners at Kdnigstein, namely the Kommandant and his Security 
Officer, each got six months in the military prison at Gollnow in 
Pomerania. We thought they were lucky to get away with that, 
because Romilly, our civilian hostage, was a standing death sentence 
to the two officers in the same position at Colditz. 

As I was away at K6nigstein until the last days of July, however, 
I can only report briefly, and from the record, the events that 
occurred on the escape front at Colditz in my absence. The park as 
usual figured a good deal in escape bids that summer of 1943. 

After the walk one day a Dutch officer was found by the dogs 
under some leaves and loose earth. This concealment had been 
effected under the (literal) cover of a Bible study circle, attended by 
a group of officers wearing the long black cloaks that were part of 
the Dutch uniform. 

On May 28th again the walk returned one short. When they 
checked, it was Lieut. Girot, the youngest French officer, who was 
missing. They found a window bar sawn through in one of the 
French rooms, but I think this must have been a blind. They could 
not find any trace of the way he had gone, if he had gone from the 
park. Had there really been an empty file on return from the park? 
It was too late to check. They then wondered if the French had got 
hold of another secret goon-proof exit, for they found no clue 
whatever to this getaway. Girot was caught in a train going to 
Frankfurt and came back to Colditz. 

Two new arrivals in my absence were first one of the best-known 
Battle of Britain fighter pilots, Wing Commander Douglas Bader, 
whom I remember so well later swinging round the yard on his 
artificial limbs, and Lieut Michael Sinclair of the Rifle Brigade, 
whose escape attempts were unbeaten, as to their number and as 
regards the risks he took to effect them. Sinclair had escaped from a 
camp at Posen, together with a Major Littledale. Sinclair was 
caught on the Bulgarian frontier and sent to Colditz via Vienna. 
He jumped the train on the way but was recaptured. Both officers 
ended up in Colditz. Sinclair suffered permanently from sinus 
trouble, and we used to send him out of the camp for treatment. 
On one such occasion, at Leipzig on June and, he escaped from his 
guard. In Cologne, a few days later, there had been a heavy air-raid 


and the police were looking for pilots who had come down by 
parachute. Sinclair was stopped and questioned, and his disguise 
failed. Back he came to Colditz. This was the first of several tries. 

Squadron-Leader Paddon, who had escaped with the other four 
"patients" from hospital at die end of April, and had been retaken, 
was due for a court-martial at Thorn in Posen during June. The 
charge had followed him on from his previous camp, where he had 
accused a German NCO of theft 

We knew that these trips, even for courts-martial, which took the 
prisoners outside our castle security ring, were a godsend to would-be 
escapers, and knowing Paddon's record, we sent Dixon Hawke as his 
escort. They travelled overnight. 

Next morning, in the prison at Thorn, when the Ferret went to 
collect his prisoner to bring him before the Court, the cell was empty. 
The Court was compelled to adjourn, sine die \ 

We never discovered how Paddon escaped. We suspected that he 
had somehow joined a party of British orderlies, working in the 
prison, and had gone out with them on some job. Dogs followed a 
trail from one working party, having been given some of his 
clothing to sniff. The trail ended in a bog. Perhaps they thought that 
was the best place to report the last trace of this turbulent beast! 
Later, his comrades told us that he was home in England, having 
got there via Sweden. 

On July 6th the Riot Squad again beat the Dutch to the touch- 
down, and found them just closing up a hole in one of their walls. 
They had sunk another shaft to make up for the buttress which we 
had discovered earlier. 

Some time later two Dutch officers, Lieuts. Winkenbosch and 
Verley, were caught in the kitchen scullery making a hole in the 
back of the camp boilerhouse, which was in our yard. On the same 
day, noises on the wall between our quarters and the prisoners 9 
showed that the British were up to something. We sent the Riot 
Squad up to investigate on the third floor over the canteen (always 
trouble in that south-east corner, where the "seam" was), and there 
they found Captain van Den Heuvel, Lieuts. Kraimink and Storie- 
Pugh actually climbing out of an Anglo-Dutch hole they had made 
from their end mess-room into the attic on our side. 

Only a few more days and a twelve-foot tunnel was found in the 
ground floor of the Senior Officer's quarters, with three prisoners 
working in it. At first sight the tunnel seemed pointless, until we 
realized it was probably aimed to link up with the drainage 
system. We also had a good haul from a hide there, which included 
a home-made typewriter! That explained these first-rate passes 
found on escapers! 

But most serious of all, we found a message in code, a very simple 


code, which we worked out quite easily, warning prisoners against 
using Leipzig Central Station, and telling them how to short- 
circuit it by tram. A phone number contact in Leipzig was given as 
well. Working from this our Criminal Police discovered an electrical 
equipment tradesman, a German, who had been in the old Guard 
Company that we had moved from the castle as unreliable. 

Before the war, this man's business partner in Leipzig had been 
one of the Polish officers now a prisoner in Colditz. It was between 
these two that the messages were passing as well as quite a number 
of tools. We even found a list in fact it was a bill for all the tools 
that had gone into the castle, with details, and the amounts of 
coffee and cigarettes that had been passed out in exchange through 
this man or through intermediaries after he'd left. The actual price 
seemed very small for the risk taken. The prisoner, of course, we 
couldn't touch, but the traitor was very severely punished. 

I left Konigstein on July a6th and, after a few days' leave, returned 
on duty at Colditz, to find that our Kommandant had just retired. 
He was over seventy. The new Kommandant was very much a new 
broom. He insisted on the greatest thoroughness in all our work, 
down to the last detail, and made frequent speeches of exhortation 
(i.e* pep talks). For instance, it was our duty, he said, to set an 
example to our own men. We must insist on the correct application 
of the Geneva Convention and all its rules, as regards the treatment 
of prisoners-of-war. We must demand that they behaved themselves 
correspondingly. He required "watchfulness, circumspection, 
presence of mind, calm, and persistence" from us in our jobs. He, 
the Kommandant, would set an example. But he would not 
frequent the prisoners' yard overmuch. He must seem to be what he 
was the symbol of ultimate authority ! 

It all sounded very fine, but this officer obviously had no idea of 
what he was letting himself in for, or the position he was trying to 
push us into! These words sounded very well as we listened in 
respectful silence in our "Casino". I don't think they would have 
had a similar reception in the prisoners' yard. One real change I 
remember was, that during his time in command, we expanded more 
than ever our relations with the Partei. 

One good idea (?) that this second Colditz Kommandant did 
think up, was special parades at any time of the night. This really 
was asking for trouble. We could not get the prisoners out of their 
bunks for one thing. We couldn't tell whether they were in the right 
groups, naturally, since they did not dress properly for these parades 
(or indeed any parades, which they declared were only roll-calls). 
They simply came down in any old garment they could lay their 
hands on. 

On one of these, riotous occasions a rifle was missing for some time 


until we found it down a prisoner's trouser-leg. We had sent guards 
up to get them down, either out of beds or out of cupboards, and in 
order to open a cupboard a sentry had to put his rifle down for a 
second, in which time it disappeared. 

Another night there was a special parade for the French only. 
The rest of the prisoners stood at their windows yelling through the 
bars. The LO was quite beside himself. The entire guard was called 
into the yard, and lined up in a storm of jeers, facing the buildings 
on the east side. 

"Back from the windows/* shouted our Duty Officer. 

No one heeded him. The yelling continued. 

"Take aim" the guard pointed their rifles up at the windows. 

Our LO, who was quite inaudible in the row that was going on, 
screamed, "If that shouting up there doesn't stop, I shall order the 
guard to fire.** 

One of the guards, more weary than the rest at that time of night, 
did not hold his muzzle high enough. In fact he let it droop so far 
that it was aimed at the head of a French officer standing dose in 
front of him. 

"Hoher," bawled the Frenchman ("Higher'*). 

His accent was wide of the mark, and so a guard down the line 
thought he heard the order "Feuer" ("Fire!"). 

He let go. They all did. Nineteen shots in all were fired at the 
windows. By some incredible miracle, no one was even touched. 

This rioting, as one may call it, was something our new Kom- 
mandant just did not understand. Indiscipline, bribery, stealing 
he wasn't used to it. He had come from the front, and this was a 
kind of behaviour with which he could not cope at all. The halo of 
his authority was quite simply ignored. Had we carried out his 
orders in detail, we should have required one cell between five 
prisoners, with probably four of them sharing it permanently, and 
hardly anyone in the quarters at all ! 

Early in August, some Russian prisoners were brought in for 
de-lousing rather unexpectedly. Two British officers were caught 
tunnelling in the de-lousing shed. This hole, too, was aiming to tie 
up with the drains that ran out from the yard, under the gate, down 
to the archway, and so I know not where. 

By this time we had realized that the four courtyard cells, which 
we used to accommodate prisoners under arrest, plus the three more 
under the archway between the German courtyard and the 
approach yard, really did not suffice to hold all those who at any 
one time were under a sentence of arrest. Not even when we 
doubled up those confined could we deal with the masses of prisoners 
coming in to our lists for prison accommodation. These cells 
averaged about ten by six feet and there were never less than a 


dozen prisoners in at any one time for a term of anything from five 
to twenty-one days. 

We were therefore compelled to seek extra prison accommodation 
and we had found it in the old town gaol a iso-year-old building 
now out of use, which was properly fitted up on the first floor with 
ten old-fashioned cells and a guardroom, plus a small exercise yard* 
This was ten minutes* walk from the castle down in the town but it 
suited our purpose exactly and the Kommandant obtained authority 
from the ever-obliging OKW to rent this building. Our first prisoners 
moved in there at Easter 1942, and thereafter pretty well every cell 
was constantly occupied both in the castle and down in the local jug, 
or Hotel Stadt, or Town Hotel, as it became known. 

For exercise there the prisoners filed out of their cells down the 
staircase to the ground floor and then out into the small yard for an 
hour, morning and afternoon. They were marched down the stairs 
with one sentry at the head of the line and one at the back. In the 
yard a sentry stood at each end and kept an eye on the prisoners as 
they walked up and down the intervening twenty-five-thirty yards. 

Flight-Lieut. Dickinson was a man of snap decisions, as befitted 
an Air Force pilot On August i8th, 1942, after an hour standing in 
the hot afternoon sun at each end of the small gaol yard, the sentries 
were glad to call "Time" to the small group of prisoners walking 
back and forth between them. 

The first sentry turned and opened the door of the ground floor 
prison building and went in and up the stairs. The prisoners shuffled 
around the entrance, while the second sentry came up from his far 
end of the yard. 

Suddenly Dickinson bolted to the side wall, put his foot on the 
lock of a door in it and swung up and over and down into an orchard 
on the other side. The sentry still in the yard was slow on the draw. 
In any case he couldn't let fly wildly because there were houses 
surrounding the yard and he might have hit some innocent civilian. 
He was no good at all at climbing over walls, and so Dickinson got 
away safely over the far orchard wall and picked up a bicycle which 
for some reason was standing in the town square unlocked. He made 
off at speed and finished up in Chemnitz that evening, where the 
police, warned by "Mausefalle", picked him up. It was a splendid 
effort Unfortunately for Dickinson he hadn't sufficient equipment 
with him in the form of clothing or passes or money. It was just 
another snap escape like Desjobert's in the previous October. 

He told the police that he was an Air Force pilot shot down 
over Cologne, But hwvas back in Colditz later that night. 

Two days later we again sent the painter* into the prisoners' yard. 
A French officer saw his opportunity, and rigged himself up with a 
white jacket and trousers. He went on the walk one afternoon 


wearing this disguise under his greatcoat, carrying a blanket for 
further concealment, and where the walk left the roadway through 
the wicket gate for the zigzag path down to the park, his friends 
whipped off his outer covering, while he whipped round back 
through the gate as a painter going the other way. Unfortunately 
our NCO asked for his civilian's pass, and found he had caught 
Lieut. Delarue! 

Towards the end of the month Lieut. Lee and Flight-Lieut. 
Tunstall were court-martialled for "misuse of musical instruments", 
i.e. unseemly bawling with their trumpets. This meant another trip 
to the Leipzig court-martial and as the two demanded four witnesses, 
we scented an attempted mass break. In Leipzig Lieut Lee and 
Flight-Lieut. Forbes broke away in the crowds but were recaptured. 
The NCO in charge of the escort marched them all back into the 
station with their hands up. The accused got three weeks* cells. 

A great obstacle to overcome in our searches was the quantity of 
personal belongings that the prisoners accumulated over the years. 
Shelves upon shelves of books, amounting to private libraries, had 
to be gone through to see if there was paper money or passes in the 
leaves. Even by throwing handfuls of books on the floor, and we 
often did this, it wasn't possible to open them all up properly. 
Masses of clothing, for both summer and winter use, lay around 
collecting dirt. Boxes, cupboards, shelves, home-made stools, photos 
in frames, musical instruments, papers, boots and shoes by the 
dozen all these made concealment the easiest thing and discovery 
the most difficult. 

In due course we decided on a spring-clean. The British quarters 
were the worst. Far more was sent out to them from home than to 
the prisoners of any other country, and we determined to clear their 
rooms out down to the barest minimum of personal effects. 

The orders were "Ail superfluous private belongings to be 
packed today in a downstairs room under the supervision of our 
Quartermaster. The cases then to be removed to a storeroom in the 
German yard, date 7.9.42." 

The room in which all this packing was to be done, packing by 
over a hundred officers in turn, was a small room about twelve by 
twelve feet, the "Evidenz", a small conference room between the 
canteen and mystery space on one side, and the prisoners 9 kitchen 
on the other. It was, of course, much too small and the job was 
obviously going to tike (or be made to take, as we soon realized) 
several days. A smallish quantity of kit was brought down by the 
British. It was all heaped up in the courtyard and had to be 
dragged and struggled with into this tiny room and packed in boxes 
under our eyes. Then orderlies came and took these out into the 


yard and loaded them on to a flat handcart. The British orderlies 
accompanied this almost traditional vehicle to our yard, and shifted 
all the junk up to one of our storerooms on a third floor. 

Of course we had the usual friction before the operation started. 
We had to submit to a heavy attack on our morale from the Senior 
British Officer, Colonel W. Tod, as to the justice of the whole affair. 
After all, these things were private and personal property to which 
the PWs were entitled under the Geneva Convention. Fortunately 
for us, the Convention does not say how much personal property a 
prisoner may retain, and so we won that point. 

The next attack was on the impossibility of each officer coming 
down with armfuls of kit, queuing up outside the Evidenz Room 
and then packing what he had with him and then going back for 
more, up and down the stairs and in and out of the conference room. 
In the end we submitted to a suggestion from the British that the 
boxes might be packed in the quarters and brought down into the 
yard, tied up and labelled with the owners* names, ready for 
transfer to our store. 

The orderlies were now to bring the boxes straight down, and 
load up the cart right away without any check by us. We merely 
tallied what arrived in the storeroom. This was upstairs on the south 
side of our yard, with a window looking out over what had been 
the moat. 

Our Security Officer was not quite sure whether all this was a 
good thing. It was not quite in the spirit of the orders which he had 
had "effects to be packed under supervision 9 *. However, as none 
of these containers was actually going to leave the castle, he agreed 
to the British request, that they should pack their things up in their 
own quarters without supervision. 

To hasten the operation we supplied a large number of Red Cross 
three-ply cases, about three feet each way in size, which had held 
food supplies in bulk. 

By the evening of that day, our eyes nearly dropping out of our 
heads from the watching of the dozens of cases and the officers 
milling around them, the storeroom was finally locked and barred, 
and the job was done. 

Next day, we had a visit from a top-ranking officer, the Officer i/c 
Prisoners-of-War in Army District No. 4, Dresden, General Wolff. He 
turned up at about half past ten. Our new Kommandant made 
some important suggestions for increasing security, which were all 
agreed. The general inspected the premises, and about half past 
eleven gave us a "pep* 9 talk. He too had been a bit of a rebel in his 
younger years. He knew what sort of attitude people could work up 
against authority. He advised us to be strict, but fair* 

The general left at midday. 


Half an hour later a report came of a rope of blue and white bed- 
sheets hanging down the outer wall of the German yard buildings 

overlooking the moat on the south front. Du lieb&r / The Security 

Officer and I rushed to inspect. There was a rope hanging from a 
window from the very storeroom we had crammed so full of 
boxes and cases of clothing and so on only last evening. Gott sei 

Dank / The general had not seen it. It was in full view from the 

main gate and he could easily have done so. 

Up in the store we found a Red Cross box broken open and on the 
lid was written in German, "I don't like the air in Colditz. Auf 
Wiedersehen. Ex-PW Flying Officer Bruce." 

Bruce was quite the smallest officer in the British ranks. He must have 
got into the box up in the British quarters where we had allowed 
them to pack the cases unsupervised. He had been lightly nailed in, 
the orderlies had struggled down with him and loaded him on to the 
cart, and had then carried him from the cart up into the store. Even 
with his small size, it must have been a very tight fit in that box. 
Bruce wasn't caught until just on a week later, near the harbour 
basin at Danzig. I imagine he had made use of one of those silk 
maps from the cover of a book from the Lisbon agent His story there 
was that he had jumped from a British plane over Bremen and had 
arrived in Danzig on a stolen bicycle. His bicycle, unluckily, had a 
local number on it. He was, however, sent to the RAF camp at 
Dulag Luft near OberurseL There, he was recognized by members 
of the German staff, and for the second time he left there for 
Colditz. It was perhaps tactless, though polite, of Bruce to write 
"Auf Wiedersehen" on the box when he really had "Good-bye" in 
mind. It was indeed tempting fate. 


Strange Faces Red Faces 

SOMETHING was obviously up. Now indiscipline, almost mutiny, 
could be felt everywhere. The early morning parade was due to 
be taken by two of us LOs. A lot of people seemed overcome by 
sickness that morning, and could not bring themselves to get out of 
bed, and come down on parade. They lay there coughing and 
groaning on their bunks. Things were so bad that in the end we 
called off this first parade, and ordered a second one for 9.15. This 
was playing into the prisoners' hands, as we very soon discovered. 
On top of all this we still had Bruce's escape of the day before to 
worry about. 

At 9 o'clock a report came through that a woman from Com- 
michau, coming to market in Colditz through the Tiergarten above 
the park, had found two boxes with Polish uniforms in them. We 
looked at each other. "That's why there's all this trouble with that 
Sauhaufen (pigmob) in there this morning." 

At 9.15 we went into the yard with reinforcements. To begin 
with, ten officers seemed to be missing. We got that number down to 
six. Then I found two British officers standing in with the Dutch 
company. We checked the Dutch from their photographs, and found 
three of them absent. During this operation a bucketfiil of water 
crashed down from the British quarters, alongside the table holding 
the files. Flight-Lieut. Tunstall was seen up above and later court- 
martialled on my report. 

We now found that five British officers were missing. But one of 
them, surely, I had just seen in the yard. 

We were in some confusion. 

To make this even more confounded, we had something des- 
perately serious to worry about now. We discovered that our basic 
security check, tallying identities of appearance in the flesh with 
appearance in photographs, was not infallible. 

I pulled out the identity card of Lieut. Keillar, and called him 
forward. I looked from face to photo and back again. "Who 
are you?" 

"Lieut Malcolm Keillar Number 310." 

I looked at his identity disc. It tallied. I asked him for the personal 
details on his card birthday, father's Christian name, and so on. 
He couldn't give them. 

"Give me your real name. You are required to do that under the 


Colditz Castle from the south-west. On the right is the German yard with the 
gate to the park beyond, on the far side 

(Left} The path to the park on the east side of the Castle with the Kommandantur 

building on the left. The "walk" came down the slope and turned through the 

wicket gate in the right foreground. (Right) Looking into the prisoners' yard 

from the approach yard 

The south side of the prisoners' yard, showing the "seam". From left to right are 

the entrance to the canteen, the evidenz, the scullery and the kitchen. The 

windows on the back wall are in the Hexengang corridor 

Part of the "seam" from the German yard side. The archway building on the 
left, and the three lower floors were occupied by the Germans ; the three upper 
rows of windows looked out from the prisoners' quarters. This building contained 

i%rv+C i.;*^i*^__ 

both kitchens 

The author when on the Colditz staff 

The hole in the grass-covered ter- 
race outside the British canteen 
through which Captain Reid 
emerged, and (right) the entrance 
to the tunnel under the canteen 

Howard <ee (left) and Giles Romilly, the only civilians in Colditz 

(Left) The camouflage net covered with leaves under which two Dutch officers 

were discovered. (Right) The underside of the hole beneath the stage in the 

theatre through which four officers escaped two of them successfully 

The scene of the second 
British mass break-out 
attempt; eight officers .came 
through this hole from their 
quarters into a German lava- 
tory before the watching 
guards revealed themselves 

Three photographs of the 
great French chapel tunnel: 
(above) electric light was in- 
stalled and (below) a cable 
system for transport of debris ; 
the solidity of some of the 
masonry which had to be 
pierced is evident (left) 

A smart squad of Dutch officers on parade but not all they might seem 

Flying Officer Bruce's escape : 
(right) the rope of blue and 
white bed sheets hanging from 
the storeroom of lie south 
outer wall of the German yard 
buildings; and (below) the 
broken Red Cross box in 
which Bruce had hidden 

(Above) We reconstructed 
the attempt of six officers to 
escape from a store room on 
the north side of the castle, 
disguised as a German offi- 
cer, N.C.O. and four Polish 

(Left) Two of the Dutch 
officers pictured on an 
earlier page 

Willi, the camp elec- 
trician, and his double, 
Lieut. Perodeau (left) 

A prisoner's fake pass bearing a photograph taken with a home-made camera 

The grca 1 ^ escaper of them all: 
(above) Lieut. Michael Sinclair, "The 
Red Fox'*, and (left) Sergeant-Major 
"Franz Josef "whom he impersonated 

A box for a chess set containing money and maps 

The back of a shove- 
ha'penny board and 
the money, com- 
passes and hacksaw 
blade it contained 

A radio set found in the British quarters -the first in a PW camp during 
the search for a tunnel in the staircase of the chapel tower 


<^' l *{ A> , ' >,'',-' ' ," 

"Plug in to Tunis". When we removed part of the map of North Africa in the 
French quarters we found a radio set behind it 


Geneva Convention." He said he had orders not to tell. I pressed 
him. He asked to speak to his Senior Officer, and finally claimed to be 
a Corporal Hendeen, whom we had, we thought, transferred two 
months ago to a soldiers' camp in Silesia with several other British 
orderlies. It turned out that Keillar had changed places with him, 
and the corporal had been living in Colditz for eight weeks under an 
assumed identity ! 

We collected Lieut. Keillar later on, pleased to have got some- 
thing out of the confusion of that day. But still, the price of this 
discovery, that our security check, the final one, was not as good as 
it should have been, was highly disturbing. 

By the end of the morning we found that six officers in all were 
missing. However, Lieuts. Donkers and Wardle, RN, were brought 
back the same morning, and next day Lieuts. Lawton and Beets also 
returned. The two others, Flight-Lieut Fowler and Captain van 
Doorninck, got to Switzerland. 

Security had now to discover how these officers had made their 
escape from Colditz. We searched, and re-searched, and in the end, 
after lengthy questioning of the sentries, we found how it was done. 

The six, disguised as a German officer and NCO in charge of 
apparently four Polish orderlies, had come out of a storeroom on the 
north side of the castle, just after the guard had been changed in the 
early morning. But how had they got into the store? The sentries 
naturally thought that they had gone in by the outside door (the one 
they came out of), shortly before they, the sentries, had been 
changed. We discovered that, in point of feet, they had got in from 
our Sergeant-Major's office on the inner side of the castle. The exit 
hole was actually dug under Mussolini's table! His office was 
entered from a corridor leading from the north-west corner of the 
prisoners' yard to the hospital. The hole had been made at night 
after opening two types of locks on the office door, and closing them 
again afterwards, twice over. The hole had been enlarged night after 
night, and covered up each morning before it was time for an 
accomplice to let these night shift workers out ! There must have been 
a great deal of assistance given by way of watching the sentries 
round the outside of the building, and also by keeping an eye and 
ear open for sudden irruptions of the Riot Squad. This "stooging", 
as this type of PW surveillance was called, was probably carried 
on either from above Mussolini's office, or from the infirmary across 
the corridor. Our locks were no damn good, nor our damn sentries 

To make things worse, we found that a gate had actually been 
unlocked for the party, as they made their way towards the road, 
by one of our own NCOs. This ass had asked them "Are you going 
to Zschadrass?" The answer was, "Yes." 'Then I will open the 


door for you" which the soldier did. They may have had a false 
key but it didn't follow that it was going to work, and the arrival of 
this NCO with the proper key was a godsend. He thought they were 
taking spare clothing to the loony bin. We told him that's where he 
ought to be himself! 

Security measures. We played hell with the Guard Company. 
"Haven't you been told to demand passes from every Tom, Dick and 
Harry who comes along, if they don't show them first?" and we 
moved the infirmary from the ground floor to the first floor in 
another part of the yard. 

During the identity check some of the prisoners hurled water 
from their windows on to us in the yard and it seemed to me I was 
the primary objective. Flight-Lieut. Tunstall was court-martialled 
for his part in this affair at Leipzig just before Christmas. Counsel 
for defence was the same local German lawyer who had been a 
British PW. His defence was, that the accused could not be charged 
with aiming intentionally at me personally, since he was up on the 
third floor behind barred windows, having concealed himself before 
parade. The bars were set so far back from the edge of the gill that 
they prevented him from seeing who stood directly underneath. 
There was no question of his leaning out between the bars and 
looking down. Tunstall, a bomber pilot, admitted that he threw the 
water but said he just splashed it about in a general way. Defending 
Counsel also said that in PW camps there should not be bars on 
prisoners' windows, under the Convention, although they were 
allowed in punishment cells. The sentence was the fairly mild one 
of four weeks' arrest. I must say that I always suspected that someone 
down in the yard gave the tip when I was directly under the window, 
and so a suitable target for a bucket of water. But I could not prove 

A central escape museum had been organized about this time in 
Vienna. We sent some specimens of our best escape material, 
or photographs of it, to this exhibition, and they were favourably 
received, as being quite unique. It was very easy to replace the 
specimens we sent away, from further items provided by the 
prisoners. Our own collection of photographs of tunnels, contra- 
band, ialse passes, keys, disguises, etc., reached over a hundred by 
the end of the war. 

Our Kommandant went to Vienna to have a look at the museum 
and brought back some really good ideas aimed at increasing the 
areas under observation by our sentries around the castle buildings. 

We put up a "pagoda" or machine-gun tower in the north-west 
corner of the terrace, giving a sight down most of the northern and 
western sides. 


We also put up a catwalk running in mid-air well out from the 
outer wall of the approach yard, covering the fifty yards of the 
Saalhaus buildings, plus the two buttress-type buildings standing out 
at each end, namely the archway with its cells, from which two 
escapes had already been made, and the guardroom. It was down 
the front of this guardroom, the sheer face of about eighty feet high, 
that Lieuts. Chmiel and Surmanowicz had slid on their rope over 
eighteen months earlier. 

On the park or east side of the castle we put a sentry up on a cat- 
walk over the barbed wire gateway to supplement the sentry whose 
beat ended at the gate. This also gave a better view of the ground 
floor windows in the prisoners' quarters, as it was now possible to 
watch what had been dead ground. 

Furthermore, we decided to face the wall surface in a passageway 
that ran along the back of our quarters (overlooking the prisoners* 
yard), with an alarm net of wires. This corridor ran above the single- 
storey kitchen buildings, and so on, and was accessible to the 
prisoners both from the Senior Officers' quarters on the south-west 
corner of their yard and from several levels above the canteen on the 
south-east corner. When I say accessible, it wasn't officially acces- 
sible, but there was nothing but an eighteen-inch wall between the 
quarters at the upper levels. 

On receipt of these instructions I went up with a man to measure 
the area that had to be covered. And there, in the passageway, which 
we called Hexengang (or Witches' Walk), we came upon two Polish 
officers who had got through a hole from the Saalhaus 1 

The very same night we found the iron door at the; other end, 
which was a connecting link through the wall between our yard and 
the attic over the Conference Room, unlocked and ajar, but we did 
not catch the persons who had opened it. Plainly, several minds 
were thinking alike. 

We also put up a stronger light in the yard. It suffered destruction 
more than once from well-aimed catapult shots, as did a picture of 
the Ftthrer, which dominated the small Evidenz or Conference 

In spite of having all the resources we wanted for material 
security, two whole years were yet to elapse before Colditz became 
anywhere near escape proof. By then, the autumn of 1944, the 
prisoners had mainly decided that they would wait for liberation 
to come to them. 

By October 1942, Colditz had become known even to the dead- 
beats in the OKW, as something to open files on. They finally sent 
the general in charge of prisoners-of-war, OKW, down on a visit of 
inspection (for what good that might do!). He inspected the 


prisoners* quarters and O.K.d everything that we had done to keep 
them inside the place. I doubt if he could possibly have made any 
practical suggestions to augment our precautions without having 
spent at least twelve months in the camp. But we did get it out of 
him that the order to handcuff British officers for certain periods of 
the day did not apply here. This was a reprisal measure ordered by 
Hitler that summer, but from the text of it it could be read to apply 
only to prisoners in British PW camps. We were glad of the general's 
interpretation of the order. Colditz, he ruled, was not a British 
Prisoner-of- War camp ; it was an international PW camp, and the 
order, therefore, in his view, could not apply. I must say this order 
hadn't much success elsewhere, since the prisoners always managed 
to get their handcuffs off in good time. We thought what splendid 
raw material this type of metal would have afforded the Colditz 
workshops had we been compelled to handcuff the British in 
our camp. 

By now the war outside was taking an unpleasant turn for 
Germany. Partisans in Russia were declared to be beyond the law. 
Our civilian population began to take its revenge on bomber crews 
who came down by parachute. These pilots were safe, and by that I 
mean comparatively safe, only when they got into Wehrmacht 
hands. With Partei authorities their fate was uncertain. 

In the middle of October I went to a conference held in Dresden. 
We discussed new Wehrmacht orders, which were to reduce person- 
nel in Home Front Commands, and defined ways and means of 
employing as many prisoners-of-war as possible in the ranks of 
German industry. What we needed was replacements for the terrible 
losses we had suffered and were still suffering and were estimated to 
suffer on the East Front. There in Russia we had come to a standstill. 
Our high water mark in Africa, at Alaxnein, had been reached. 
The tide was beginning to ebb, though it had a long way to go. 

I returned from Dresden on October 1 5th and found all passengers 
being checked by the police when I changed trains at Dobeln. My 
heart sank. I knew without asking. "Yes," they said. "Four prisoners 
missing from that verdammte Sonderlager of yours !" 

That morning four British officers had been found missing after 
the usual hullaballoo. These were Major Littledale, Lieut. Stephens, 
RN, Captain Reid, and Flight-Lieut Wardle, Royal Canadian 
Air Force. 

Once again it was a report from a civilian coming through the 
Tiergarten which had warned us that something was up. She had 
found some suspicious blue and white material (the usual bed-sheets) 
under some bushes. The dogs were not successful in following the 
trail outward, but worked back to the castle wall on our south front 
and then stopped The code-word "Mousetrap" had gone out at 


once down all available telephone wires to authorities and security 
personnel within the five-mile radius of Colditz, but by midday we 
had spread the search net to the twenty-mile limit with the word 
"Hasenjagd". That means "Hare Drive' 5 , but it was often taken to 
indicate "Wild Goose Chase". By 5 we realized we should 
have to rely on railway and criminal police along the railway line 
to the south-west, the regular home-run to Switzerland. 

For days we searched inside the prisoners' yard and quarters 
looking for an exit. On the i8th we found a hole in the Dutch 
quarters, in the thickness of the wall, a secret passage of some kind, 
dating from the Middle Ages. This was the principal Dutch hide-out. 
We collected three home-made German officers' uniforms, plaster 
moulds for buttons and emblems of rank, and so on, as well as a 
quantity of tools. This hole was under their washroom floor, and we 
got it because their warning system against the Riot Squad again 
failed, and we were on them before they could close the hide-out 

As the dogs seemed to have found some kind of clue at the outside 
foot of our south wall, we searched around in our own quarters on 
the ground floor and in the different basements of that side of our 
yard. The Riot Squad produced what they called evidence to sup- 
port a crazy theory that an escape had been made across the German 
courtyard and out of the cellar under our south buildings looking 
over the dry moat. The dogs had indeed sniffed their way back to 
the outside wall close to an air-shaft that came out there. It was 
claimed that footprints could be made out in the flower beds close 
to our Kommandantur wall by the moat. English toffee papers 
were found in one of the cellars, and a bar was found bent on the 
outside of the air-shaft. This all seemed very nebulous to us at the 
time. How could anyone get past the sentry who was parading back 
and forth in the middle of the German yard? How could any 
prisoner get out of windows on the prisoners* side of that yard in the 
full glare of the searchlights without the sentry seeing him? Security 
did agree to board up the air-shaft, but as for the rest we concluded 
that probably one of our own people had been given sweets and had 
eaten them unobserved in the cellar on some occasion, while the 
footprints on the flower beds might have been made by anyone, 
or even by one of the dogs. 

In spite of our searching, by the asrd of the month, we had still 
found no sign of any exit from the camp, and no news had come in 
from outside of the four British escapcrs. 

One evening in November we nearly caught someone in the pas- 
sage that led from the top of the guardroom building stairs back 
over the gate to that hole under the stage which we had blocked off 
in January, after two successful escape attempts. Whoever it was this 


time, he got away back through into the theatre dressing-room 
before the Riot Squad could get up there to cut him off. We then 
wondered, was this the exit from which the prisoners had escaped 
the previous week? They might have opened up and used this old 
and successful escape route, again going out dressed as German mili- 
tary personnel. We had moved our Mess from over the guardroom, 
so there was one less obstacle to pass on their way down* Where 
they would have gone after that we could not work out 

Shortly afterwards, we discovered a loose bar at the back of the 
prisoners* kitchen. One side of the kitchen was entered from their 
yard; the other side had no door, but just windows, which over- 
looked our yard. It would have been possible to get out of these 
windows, and on to a low roof and drop into the German yard, but 
where would you go after that? There was a sentry in this yard, 
night and day. We checked with the sentries who had been on duty 
on the park gate the night the four got away. They all swore that 
no one had gone past them in the early morning without showing 
his pass. In the end, so far as we were concerned, escape of the four 
British officers took place from the theatre, and once again down 
past the guardroom, and then out by some route never discovered, 
and away. We thought they might have gone down below the 
guardroom, into the cellar, and so out to the lower ground terrace 
on the south front and so perhaps through the wire, but there was a 
sentry on the terrace which ruled out that theory.* 

It was obvious that autumn that the work of the Oil Commission, 
which had sat earlier that year in Colditz to prepare for the exploita- 
tion of the Russian oilfields, was going to be in vain. Germany was 
not going to get any oil out of the Baku fields. We had admittedly 
flown our flag from the top of Mount Elbruz, the highest in the 
Caucasus range, but that was only a gesture. Perhaps from this peak 
our climbers might have seen the oilfields, but that was about as near 
as we could be said to have got. We now pinned our hopes on the 
submarine campaign. Definite consolation was found in our potato 
and root crop, which that season was a record, and thank heaven, 
it was a lovely autumn. No night frosts at all in October. The coal 
ration had been dropped by 30 per cent. 

On November 3rd, two British officers arrived from Poland. They 
were Lieuts. Silverwood-Cope and Crawford. As escapers their cards 
were marked in the register with the usual green tag, but these two 
were escapers with a difference. They had escaped originally from 
a camp at Posen, and had been in touch for some time with the Polish 
underground in Warsaw and Radom. In these cities they had hidden 
for several months. We never found the agents mainly responsible 

* Many years later I read the true story of this escape out of the kitchen, over 
our yard, into our cellar, through the air-shaft. 


for their care in Warsaw,* but they were picked up by the Gestapo 
in a razzia (street check), along with Poles and a number of Jews. 

They had themselves been beaten up with the others in prison, 
and had seen the most dreadful things Jews pushed down under 
manhole covers into drains full of water, for as long as they could 
survive* From the top of their cells they had seen dogs set on 
prisoners by way of training in attack. They had seen the prisoners 
lacerated by the dogs. They had seen prisoners beaten, and hung 
up by their wrists. 

In Colditz these two wrote out statements describing all this. I 
read through it, and to me it was the first information that I 
personally had from first-hand sources, of what to me had till then 
been only rumours, of what went on in Partei concentration camps, 
and also of Vernichtungslagcr (destruction camps), in Poland and 
occupied Russia. These reports were sent to the Swiss Protecting 
Power through us, via the OKW. This was the normal channel of 
communication, under the Geneva Convention. Although this line of 
communication was officially permitted, the OKW replied with a 
threatened court-martial, on a charge of insulting the German 
Reich. The two accused said that they welcomed this opportunity 
to prove their story. The OKW then backed out and said that 
disciplinary punishment would suffice. 

Disciplinary punishment was a matter for the Kommandant. 
He said it was outside his power to award disciplinary punishment 
on such a charge. He passed the papers to Army District 4, Dresden. 
Dresden ordered arrest for a considerable period. The prisoners 
appealed to the OKW from Dresden as entitled, alleging that they 
could produce proof of the statements from which the alleged offence 
arose and that their punishment was illegal, since this justification 
had not been asked for. They could not be punished without trial. 
The appeal was rejected. The appeal then went to the Protecting 
Power, who put it before the British Government. At this stage, 
however, in German law, the prisoners had to submit to the arrest, 
and punishment. An appeal as far as the OKW only effected a delay. 
Both officers did thirty days* cells, the limit of disciplinary punish- 
ment without court-martial, and by and by the matter was 
damped down by the passing of time and the eruption of events. 

When we discovered that prisoners were missing on parades, the 
first thing we had to do was to make sure that we had the true 
number of absentees. This usually took some time owing to the 
diversions laid on. The next step was to find out who exactly was 

* An Englishwoman, who billeted Cope, Crawford, Sinclair and Davies-Scourfield 
(Colditz inmates) as well as dozens of other British escapers while they were in 
Warsaw, now lives in Sussex. ED. 


missing, by checking the identities with the cards in the records. 
Unfortunately the photographs on these cards grew more and more 
out of date as time went on. Many had been taken as long ago as 
1940. The Poles had been photographed in 1939, but by now were 
three years (of prison conditions) older. Many now had, or had had 
then, moustaches or beards, particularly the Dutch. The photo- 
graphs, therefore, were not too reliable. We had one example of this 
when we discovered by means of the photos the switch between 
Corporal Hendeen and Lieut. Keillar, who did vaguely resemble 
each other. It would, of course, have been possible to settle any 
queries 100 per cent by carrying out a check of fingerprints, but this 
was too technical a matter for us. 

We had quite an identity problem as the result of the arrival of 

seventeen British officers on September ist (although to be correct 

I should say that sixteen came on the ist and one, Lieut- 

Commander Stephens, who disappeared at Dobeln when they 

changed trains, came on later). This party came from a camp at 

Lamsdorff, in Silesia* For some time, naturally enough, their letters 

from home went to Lamsdorff and were forwarded from there on to 

us. By the end of October our censorship had noted that letters 

addressed to a Lieut Michael Harvey, RN, frequently had the 

name in different handwriting from the rest of the Lamsdorff camp 

address. It appeared to have been written over another name, which 

had been rubbed out The letters were signed "Alice Steele". Our 

Security Officer was advised, and sent for the officer concerned, and 

asked who was this signatory. "That is my stepmother," was the 

reply. We asked him to repeat the personal details on his card and 

he gave them to us correctly, date and place of birth, etc. It still 

seemed odd and so we fell back for the first time on a fingerprint 

check. Here there was a discrepancy* The Lieut. Harvey, RN, in 

front of us was not the Lieut Harvey, RN, on the identity card. 

There was a facial resemblance, but the prints could not lie. We 

reported the facts to Lamsdorff. The Kommandant there followed 

up the clue provided by the name Alice Steele, and found he had 

recently sent a corporal of that name to Goldberg. On examination, 

this corporal's fingerprints were found to be different from those 

recorded on his card at Lamsdorff. Corporal Steele on the card 

there was not the Corporal Steele who had gone to Goldberg. 

Lamsdorff therefore returned the apparent Corporal Steele to 

Colditz. We put the two together, and the swop was plain. The 

corporal, known to us for some weeks as Lieut Harvey, went back 

to Lamsdorff, and Lieut Harvey, RN, who had taken his place 

there on a working party, got ten days' arrest when he arrived at 


On November a6th the guard on the gate from the German yard 


to the park actually did carry cut his orders and asked for passes from 
two German soldiers going through. They had none, being Lieut. 
Barry and Lieut. Aulard, dressed up as Germans. After they were 
caught we had the usual Sonderappell. Barry was difficult to recog- 
nize at first and impossible to identify with his photo as he had 
shaved off his very heavy cavalry moustache for the purpose of the 
escape. But we found two more were missing. These were Lieut. 
Sinclair and the French Captain Klein. I was very surprised to be 
told by the Senior British Officer that the couple we had just caught 
would have got away the day before, along with the other couple, 
but that I had spoilt the attempt by suddenly coming up to the 
theatre just as they were going down through the bars of the air-shaft 
and so out through the German kitchen route. It seemed extremely 
odd to me that I should be told all this. I wondered if this wasn't a 
bluff. Had this other escape really taken place twenty-four hours 
earlier, and by this old route, which we never thought would or 
could be used again? It certainly was a good story, and obviously the 
evening parade the night before must have been faked. But why tell 
me all this? I thought the prisoners did not want to risk whatever 
system they had of faking the parades too often; the escapers had 
twenty-four hours* start anyway and whatever way their absence 
was covered at roll-call, the method still held good. Although Lieut. 
Sinclair was caught at Tuttlingen on the 3Oth, and Lieut. Klein 
shortly after at Plauen, we felt there was something cooking. But we 
couldn't identify the scent ! 


Son et Lumtore 

FOR SOME time now it was becoming obvious that the prisoners 
had more information at their disposal than they could get out of 
the newspapers. We allowed them at least a dozen different German 
papers daily from all over the country, among them the Frankfurter 
eitwg, the Hamburger Fremdenblatt and the Pommerscke %eitung. 
Neither gossip nor incoming prisoners could account for all they 
now and again admitted to knowing. And now, on December I5th, 
we made the second only of two finds in the camp in nearly four and 
a half years, which we could put down to treachery. The first of these 
was the tunnel under a bed in the infirmary. 

The warning cries of the French always seemed a little quicker off 
the mark and more intensive as the Riot Squad, or any of us, 
approached the Kellerhaus (Cellar Block) staircase in their north- 
west corner of the yard. Their quarters ran up four floors, and on the 
top floor we had once found a wiring system that was not our own. 
The whole of the Kellerhaus was down for searching that day, and 
I had the whole of the top floor to go through. Although we had been 
tipped off, I worked along slowly from room to room. The French 
padre Congar came with me as a witness. In the room No. 305 
which he himself shared with four others, including the French 
priest, Jean-Jean, a large map of North Africa was drawn on the wall. 

"Nice map," I said. "Very nice." 

We chiselled round the blob marked Tunis. A piece of thick 
cardboard came out. Behind it there was a socket and wiring. We 
broke through the wall behind Tunis looking for a radio and, oddly 
enough, we didn't come out into room No. 302, on the other side. 
We then discovered that the ceiling there was lower than the one of 
No. 305, and we were through under the roof. Up there in the attic 
we found the wireless set, French make, tuned to London. The 
connections led to the socket behind the map. We never found the 
plug or the earphones they must have used. The aerial ran up the 
rafters and along the purlins for several yards, and must have made 
the set quite selective. 

Just to show that once agaia we could not expect to have every- 
thing our own way, during the great deal of coming and going that 
went on before and after this discovery, Lieut. Falk-Bouman (Royal 
Netherlands Navy) got out of the yard disguised as one of the 
German personnel engaged in the operation. Where he went from 

7 106 


there to get out of the castle I do not know. He was caught near 
Immendingen four days later and was back for Christmas. 

Security scratched its head and racked its brains. How had this 
set got into the camp? It must surely have come in in parcels, but 
how? Supposing it got into the parcel office, how did it get out of 
there and into the French quarters without being detected? The 
informer who had given the radio away told us that the parcel office 
used to be opened with a fake key while the yard sentry's attention 
was distracted, so we rigged up an alarm system that flashed a light 
ixi the guardroom whenever the door from the prisoners' yard into 
the parcel office was opened. That only flashed once in its whole 
history when we weren't ourselves responsible for opening the door* 
On that occasion, the Riot Squad rushed in and found nothing. 
This alarm never went off at any unexpected moment thereafter. 
And yet there were radios in the camp two years later. 

Our Kommandant, who had been with us since August, now took 
it upon himself to think up a splendid disciplinary Christmas present 
for his prisoners. Lagerbefehl (Camp Order) No. 38, required proper 
discipline on all parades. No catcalling, no hands in pockets, no 
wandering about, no smoking, and no snowballs. 

He also put a bdl up in the yard to ring a half-hour and five- 
minute warning, and the exact moment when the parade to beheld 
should have started. The first time this was used, it was greeted with 
tremendous cheers. Everyone was smoking, hands were thrust 
through coat pockets, into trousers ; everyone was wandering about, 
and people were calling loudly to their friends in other companies. 
The count in the yard was now to be taken by two of us at a time. 
One was to check the numbers present, and the other was to note 
down offenders against the new rule, and keep an eye also on any 
possible faking of the parade. Punishments of between five and ten 
days' arrest were to be distributed for offences against this new order. 

We Duty Officers, however, decided it was going to be better to 
keep our eyes averted. Discipline, obviously, had gone to the devil. 
If we noted down every officer offending, then the whole crowd 
would be in the cells, and there would be an impossible backlog of 
arrest sentences to make up. 

The Kommandant once or twice went up to the Hcxengang 
corridor in the wall over the PW kitchens to observe from there how 
his new order was faring. Viewed from there, it seemed that at 
any moment he might have a mutiny on his hands, so he set up a light 
machine-gun in the window. I cannot say that I, as the German 
officer taking the roll-call, would myself have felt particularly safe in 
that yard had anyone let fly with this weapon. The ricochets had 
been bad enough in the British quarters with single shots at their 
Union Jack from the park back in the summer of 1941. A machine- 


gun firing down into that stone quarry of a courtyard would have 
been sheer murder of the prisoners, and undoubtedly for some of us. 
The machine-gun was soon removed, but we had some more 
manoeuvring yet before we got much semblance of discipline. 

Christinas was coming once again, my third at Colditz. All I got 
this time for extras was a plate of honey cakes, some apples and sonpLC 
nuts, and, of all things, a mouth-organ ! For the first time we, in the 
Officers 9 Mess, got no coffee. Even the snow was in short supply. 
There was none until after the New Year, 1943, when I had 
my leave. 

Willi was the camp electrician. He worked in the castle off and 
on the whole of the war, together with Slim the carpenter and 
Slam the mason (who died in 1944), as they were nicknamed. Willi 
went into the French quarters one late afternoon to mend a blown 
fuse. Many of us were on leave the Christmas spirit had left every- 
one a bit slack. Willi's tools were checked and he was issued with the 
usual yellow arm-band withNumber 54 and the German Eagle on it. 

About half past five a French officer came to the gate to hand in 
the ipees that were issued on parole for fencing. The gateman 
checked them. Willi came back from his job, pushed past the French 
officer, and so out and on left under the archway and into the 
German yard. Although Willi was one of the most familiar figures in 
the camp, at the park gate the sentry asked for his pass. Unfortu- 
nately for "Willi" it was the wrong one, and he was phoney too ! 
The attempt flailed. We took a photograph of the false "Willi" 
(Lieut. Pcrodeau) and of the real one together. The resemblance 
was almost perfect, but the scarf that the false "Willi" wore, wasn't 
the same colour as the real one. 

By New Year 1943, Germany's main weakness on all battle fronts 
was plain lack of men. Italy had become a liability, for now she 
needed precious divisions from us which we could ill afford. We had 
also recently taken over the whole of France. More men were 
needed for the complete occupation of that country. In the east, our 
Caucasus Army just got back over the Don at Rostov, while later on 
the Sixth Army was caught at Stalingrad and in the end 300,000 
men were lost there. 

We officers in Colditz had orders to keep up appearances no 
matter what the morale of our men, and no matter what the news. 
The notice "We do not capitulate*', still up on the factory wall 
down in the town, began to have a double meaning. 

Food was short and getting less but now and again we had a 
windfall in the shape of hares sent down by the son-in-law of our 
first Kommandant, whose daughter had married a sugar-beet 
grower from the district of Magdeburg. Large areas of land there 


were under cultivation for seed, as well as for experimental purposes. 
Here there were hares in large numbers, and in winter time the 
Kommandant got some of them and invited the officers of his staff 
for supper at the Weinstube down in the town. 

I have left out the tale of quite a few minor escape attempts, but 
for the true record for 1942, 1 give the full list here : 

Prisoners attempting escape 84 in 44 attempts* 

Fifteen got home (7 English, 3 Dutch, 5 French). 

Prisoners caught getting out of the castle 39. 

Successfully out of the castle 26, of whom 14 were re-eaught. 
Of the 26, 12 got to freedom. 

Our own prisoners who escaped from hospitals or in transit from 
the camp numbered 19. Of these 16 were caught, three got 
safely to freedom. It was, I think, the peak year. 

The morale that New Year among the prisoners was very high* 
Prophets were at work, bets were laid. I was even asked for a copy 
of the prophecies of Nostradamus. I remember one of his sayings 
that the Polish officers always quoted "The (Russian) Bear will 
go back to the greatest River in the East (a reference, they were sure, 
to the Volga), wash his paws, and then turn and attack the (German) 
Eagle." Another was, "A town in North Africa will change hands 
five times" Tobruk. 

The replacements and reinforcements for our East Front were 
now put at 800,000 men, and General Von Unruh was deputed to 
scrape up this number somehow, from industry, agriculture, 
bureaucracy and business. We wondered if the blow would fall on 
any in the Colditz Mess. We were all over fifty except the Adjutant 
and the Kommandant. 

They put us through a medical examination, first at the hands 
of the camp doctor. Our second in command seemed fit enough but 
we were all shocked at his report. Our doctor wrote : "Am unable to 
decide if fit for any further service at all. Case referred to Leipzig", 
and at Leipzig they found him "Unfit for all service, even Garrison 
Duty. Failing abandonment of drink and smoking, death may super- 
vene at any moment." So he left the army and went to run a school 
in Eastern Germany, and in August 1943 was found dead in his bed. 

In Colditz he was not replaced, so now we had only two Lager- 
offi&ere (Duty Officers) left on the strength. 

When I returned from leave in January, I was glad to hear that 
the troubles on parade had died down. It seemed that the prisoners 
were taking some notice of Camp Order No. 38. Alternatively, I 
thought, they might just have been behaving as it suited them, order 
or no order. 

"No order" was indeed my correct interpretation of the welcome 


that I received on my reappearance in their yard. The English led 
the storm that greeted me, the French supported them strongly. 
The Poles and Dutch just looked on and listened. It appeared that 
I had been selected personally to bear the brunt of this infantile 
behaviour. I felt honoured ! 

The following day the British came to me officially with a 
complaint to the Kommandant that I had been pressing for 
mairiTrmTfr punishment in the cells for recent escapists, and also that 
I had not offered Lieut. Sinclair any food when bringing him back 
from Weinsberg in October. This they alleged was "ungentle- 
manly* ' conduct. In point of fact I had given Sinclair a bottle of 
lemonade at Hcilbronn and some soup at Leipzig, to supplement his 
rations. The complaint was "noted". A day or two later snow fell 
and as the weather remained mild, snowballs began to liven up the 

One day, while I was speaking to a British officer after the parade, 
a snowball smashed against the canteen door behind me. It was 
thrown with such force that in the mush left on the door I found a 
piece of glass stuck into the wood. 

<c You," I said to the officer, "are witness of this." I extracted the 
glass and made a report of the incident to the Kommandant. He 
asked what suggestions I had in the matter. I said we should photo- 
graph or film the parades and make a sound recording as well, as 
evidence of the disorder in case something serious should occur. 

So for a few days we mounted a camera instead of a machine-gun 
and took photos of the parades from the Hexengang window. But 
then on January i4th the French priest Congar saw what was going 
on and protested. I told the French Senior Officer what we were doing 
and why, namely to have available evidence of disorderly conduct 
in case some serious incident should occur. 

The Senior Officers among the prisoners must have seen our point 
and accepted it. From the following day, rioting on parade generally 
speaking came to an end, to my very great personal relief. A modus 
vivendi was established, and Order No. 38 disappeared crabwise into 
the sands of time. 

My satisfaction at this little victory was heightened by the success 
of our monthly search. 

From under the floor in the Dutch quarters we collected three 
hundred and sixty German marks, eleven French francs and, more 
important still, fifteen rubber or linoleum stamps of all kinds, used 
for the "authorization" of false papers. We also got the apparatus 
that Captain Van Doorninck used for measuring the drops and 
distances in our Zeiss Ikon locks. At the same time the Poles lost a 
splendid collection of false passes. And under the chapel floor the 
Riot Squad found fifteen yards of tunnel. 


A second Prominent* turned up this month. This was Captain 
Michael Alexander, a nephew of the Field-Marshal. 

Our "detectives" covered him in the same way as "Emil" and we 
made the two share the same room to simplify our two-hourly 
controls of them. 

By mid-January the temperature was well below zero. So that 
meant an end to snowballing, thank heaven ! 

On the soth, however, the anniversary of the National Socialists 
coming to power, the Partei made its usual effort throughout the 
country to boost morale with parades and speeches. But for the 
first time, in many towns these celebrations were called off. Not so, 
however, in Colditz, where several of us were detailed to attend the 
Partei Show down in the town. I noticed that the Kreisleitcr (District 
Party Leader), a healthy-looking master fitter, barely fifty years of 
age, together with a local Leader of thirty-five years of age, seemed 
to have been missed by General von Unruh's Heldengreif (hero 
snatching) Commission as we sarcastically knew it ! Maybe Partei 
members were outside its scope, but ordinary mortals certainly 
were not. All men from 16 to 65, all women from 17 to 45 had to 
register. There were, however, Partei exceptions. By April 1945, 
I remember these two had still not been called up for military 

Next came the news of the capture of Stalingrad by the Russians 
and of Hitler's promotion of General Paulus to Field-Marshal a 
sorry gesture which did not conceal from anyone either the military 
disaster of the capitulation, or the blow to the Ffthrer's prestige, who 
had given his word that he would relieve the surrounded Sixth 

To show how low stocks were running, I remember that winter 
having the job of getting something out of the Colditz shops to serve 
as prizes for football competitions the prisoners had organized. It 
was extremely difficult to collect even twenty items as there was 
hardly anything at all for sale, only pencil cases, vases, book-ends, 
and so on. Any goods at all were reserved for the black market. 

In February our only Indian prisoner, the doctor, Captain 
Mazumdar, went on hunger strike. He had repeatedly asked to go 
to a prisoner-of-war camp for Indians, and practise there, as he was 
entitled to do under the Geneva Convention. But this was repeatedly 
refused by the OKW, in whose files he was down with a red tab as 
"detfcchfeindlick" (hostile to Germany). 

For a week Mazumdar lost a great deal of weight, and after a 
fortnight the OKW gave in, and he was moved to a camp near 
Bordeaux. 4 ' Mahatma Ghandi was also on hunger strike at that time 

* Dr. Mazumdar escaped iuccessfully to Switzerland from this camp the 
following year. 


in India, His fast lasted for twenty-one days. The Viceroy, however, 
remained unmoved. 

During February our Kommandant was posted to a PW camp 
in South Russia. He was replaced by a forty-three-year-old Lieut,- 
Coloncl who had been studying form in the camp since Christmas. 

With this change of teacher, the "bad boys" in the "classroom'* 
began to take the measure of the new arrival. The French opened up 
the barrage. We found broken razor blades in the kitchen waste* 
These had been upsetting the pigs in the Zschadrass asylum for some 
time, and we traced the source back to the French quarters. In 
reprisal we withdrew all privileges for them (walks, theatres, 

On March i8th the French blew their electric light fuses one 
evening and for once we did not send Willi in immediately to mend 
them. As the French had apparently no spare wire, or at least did 
not care to use their stolen stocks, they had to sit around in the dark. 
This went on for several evenings, and made them extremely cross ! 
On the evening parades they would set up a howl of"Lumtire!" and 
throw burning newspapers or toilet paper about to light up their 
staircase when they came down and went back up after roll-call. 

The British smoked demonstratively on parade by way of 
illuminating sympathy. 

We took no notice for quite a while. 

When their lights were eventually restored the French cry changed 
to "Promenade". 

We said they could go down to the park again on March aoth if 
there had been no more sabotage "schweinerei" by that date. 

Next we stole a march, as we thought, on the prisoners, by moving 
out all their metal bedsteads without warning, and replacing them 
with wooden ones. Most of the beds were double-deckers of wood, 
but there were quite a few metal ones still about, single size, 
especially in the infirmary. Naturally we could not whip out a 
hundred beds in one fell swoop, and by the time the last one was out 
the angle braces had gone from the last dozen or so to come out. 
Metal was the most precious raw material for escaping purposes, 
especially for tunnelling and making screwdrivers, keys and crow- 
bars. We riposted with an immediate general search and got most 
of this valuable stuff back into our own hands. The tug of war 
continued pull devil, pull baker a day or so later, when we sent 
a lorry into the yard with mirrors and fittings for the barber's shop, 
to be set up in a spare room off the yard. Two sentries went in with 
the lorry to keep an eye on it while the unloading was going on. The 
prisoners had their eye on the lorry as well and when they too had 
finished their "unloading", a set of maps, a tool kit and a jack had 


While in the Conference Room complaining to our Security 
Officer, who had been summoned by the agitated sentries, the owner 
of the lorry incautiously removed his hat and let it go out of his 
hand, placing it on a ledge by the window. In due course it went, 
not only out of his hand but completely out of his sight, for evermore. 
The prisoners just reached in with a wire and hooked a splendid 

"For heaven's sake," the lorry owner shouted to his men, "get 
going before they steal the wheels off the axles. This is a mad- 

Flight-Lieut. Dickinson's second escape from the town gaol took 
place on March yth, 1943. Once again the few prisoners down there 
filed in from the yard after their exercise. One stopped to light 
another's cigarette in the doorway, and the file spread out Neither 
the front nor the rear sentry noticed this. Dickinson, who was ahead 
of the two smokers, slipped under a table on the half-lit ground 
floor, dose to the door. The file carried on past him and up the stairs, 
the second sentry bringing up the rear. When the second sentry had 
gone up the stairs, Dickinson slipped back quietly through the yard 
door and again over the wall, and again had the luck to find an 
unlocked bicycle to get away on. However, "Mousetrap" caught 
hiTn yet again, as the previous August, heading for Chemnitz. This 
time he had money on hi, fifty marks in all. I was particularly 
annoyed to find this money because he had been very thoroughly 
body-searched before he went into the cells. 

On April 5th, no less than 150 officers turned out for the afternoon 
walk in the park. Most suspicious ! They moved off in due course, but 
as the party reached the German yard, a Dutch officer at a window 
called out suddenly, "All Dutch officers come back. There is a 
lecture on." The Dutch turned back although they had no right to 
do so the others earned on. There was confusion in the ranks and 
among the guards. 

Suddenly two German officers appeared at the gate leading out 
towards the park. The sentry there asked for their passes. These 
carried the signature of our Adjutant and Kommandant over the 
office stamp, authorizing the bearers, officers from the OKW, 
Berlin, to visit the castle and grounds. 

Fair enough the sentry clicked his heels. But by chance the Post 
Sergeant "Nicht Woh* 9 (to the English), or Beau Max, arrive^ on the 
scene. He took a look at these two "German officers", and thought he 
recognized one by his gold teeth. "Who the devil are you?" he asked. 

They cursed him fluently in the appropriate German. 

"Who ore you two? I'll bash you if you don't say." 

These officers cursed Him more than perhaps German officers 
normally should. 


The walk having by now sorted itself out, came on through the 
gateway and the NCO in charge arrested the two suspects. They 
turned out to be Captain Dufour of the Duxh company and Flight- 
Lieut. Van Rood, an RAF pilot of Dutch descent 

We were suspicious of all this to and fro had other "German 
officers" gone through this gateway to the park about this time? 
The sentry said no. We had a special roll-call. We were right two 
more officers were missing. These were Lieut. Michael Harvey, RN, 
and Flight-Lieut Jack Best, RAF. Obviously they too must have got 
away during the confusion at the gate disguised in our uniform as 
well. We reported them missing to the OKW on April 5th. 

With the reopening of the escaping season in April our new 
Kommandant ordered four counts a day at 7, n and 4 p.m., and the 
last parade at any time between 8 and 10 p.m., at half an hour's 
notice on the yard bell. 

One day the Kommandant attended the 1 1 o'clock parade. His 
reception was particularly noisy, and in view of this indiscipline he 
threatened to order six, seven or even eight parades a day. The 
prisoners didn't really worry at this prospect. They had nowhere 
to go, they said, and nothing to do they might just as well stand 
around in the yard day and night being counted. It was not they, 
they hinted, who would tire of this. 

A week later we took up all the linoleum off the floors splendid 
raw material for rubber stamps and German belts. Searching around 
doing this operation we found a hole under the chair in the surgery 
where the French dentist worked. We also found a trolley in the 
French quarters fitted up with rubber wheels and several yards of 
tow rope. It looked as if a tunnel was in contemplation. 

The same month a fire broke out in a heap of straw in the yard 
as we were refilling palliasses. We sent men in to put it out with a 
hose. The French tried to put them out with buckets of water flung 
from their windows. Again we withdrew all the French privileges. 

At the beginning of May, Flight-Lieut. Tunstall, who held the 
record for time hi arrest and courts-martial, came again before the 
Leipzig court on a charge of striking one of our medical orderlies. 
Unfortunately the plaintiff collapsed during cross-examination. 
Tunstall sprang to bis assistance with a glass of water, and the case 
was ^dismissed. 

^ftw^|jwresse-Lebrun's escape over the fence and wall in the 
park, those under arrest in the castle cells took their daily exercise 
along a terrace on the west front of the castle instead. On the morn- 
ing of May i ith, three prisoners were let out of their cells for exercise 
on this terrace. One of them was Flight-Lieut. Don Thorn (Royal 
Canadian Air Force). Thorn was an athlete. He was the only officer 
I ever saw using" the parallel bar we set up in the park. He could 


stand on this, ten feet up, and do back somersaults to the ground 

As Thorn came through the door at the back of the guardroom 
that morning, he 'dropped his jacket and dived straight over the 
balustrade at a window just below it in the wall of the guardroom 
building that projected out at right angles from the terrace. For a 
second he hung on to the cross bars of the grille, then dropped to a 
lower window, catching the bars of that again as he fdL He was on 
the ground before any of the sentries reacted. As they opened fire 
from both terrace levels, in danger as much of hitting each other as 
of getting Thorn, he raced to the dead ground under the pagoda, 
and then up over the barbed wire curtain untouched and down into 
the park beyond. Here Thorn made away down among the trees, 
but ran into coils of wire which brought him to a halt. Here the park 
sentry got hold of him. It was the maddest attempt of all and but for 
those final trip wires I think Thorn would have got out of Colditz, 
though perhaps not very far thereafter. 

Shortly after this episode two representatives of the Swiss Protect- 
ing Power visited the camp. The Kommandant announced that he' 
personally would conduct them round the prisoners' quarters. I 
accompanied the party into the yard, and the order "attention" 
was given. None of the prisoners in the yard took any notice at all. 
So I cleared the yard and showed the Swiss into the Conference 

While we were talking, shots were heard outside in the yard. I 
explained to the Swiss that the prisoners were probably catcalling 
from the windows and that an order must have been given to them 
to withdraw from the windows under the threat of shooting. I 
pointed out some must have ignored the threat and a few warning 
shots would have been let off to impress them. The Swiss, I regretted 
to note, were not themselves impressed in the way I could wish. 

However, the Kommandant then suggested a visit to the quarters. 
We spent ten or fifteen minutes in the British rooms, on several 
floors of the east block, and then found ourselves and the Swiss 
locked in at the bottom of the staircase ! The British had simply 
turned the k$y in the lock and taken the door-knob off after we had 
gone up the stairs. 

After a lot of shouting an NCO came over from the jjuardroom 
and levered open the door with the end of a French baycJRL 

The Swiss report on this visit must have made very impressive 
reading, for within a fortnight we had a visit from the General in 
Command of Prisoners-of-War in Berlin. He informed the prisoners' 
Senior Officers that under the Geneva Convention they were subject 
to all the laws, instructions and orders of the holding Power. He 
further added that he approved each and every measure taken by 


our Kommandant in support of his own orders, with the use of arms 
or not. Discipline must be enforced. 

Among our visitors was the French general Scapini. He repre- 
sented that public opinion which in 1940 was against a continuation 
of the war-by France, even from the colonies. Although the picture 
of Marshal P6tain was to be seen in some of the French rooms in 
Colditz, by 1943 the sentiment behind these pictures was wearing a 
little thin. At the best, the feeling was "wait and see" Scapini, who 
represented the government of P tain and Laval, and was in charge 
of prisoner-of-war matters, was allowed to speak to the French on 
his own. I don't think he had very much success in his arguments for 

Shortly after Easter 1943, my decoration with the War Service 
Cross (second class) was received with howls of delight by the mem- 
bers of the "Grande Nation 99 . Not "Pour le Mtrite" but "Pour la prison" 
was their cry. Plainly the French had it in for me personally. 


End of the International 

IN THE parcel office our X-ray machine kept finding contraband 
in any and every kind of solid object, such as hairbrushes, cotton 
reek, gramophone records. Pencils showed lead each end, but in the 
middle we often found rolls of fine paper with messages written on 
them. It seemed that the British authorities were really letting them- 
selves go on behalf of their men in captivity. We made our own 
efforts in that line both to stop them and to improve on them for 
our own purposes. 

In Colditz, as in all PW camps, the Abwehr (Security) Section 
had as its first task the prevention of escapes. A PW returning to his 
homeland might take with him information of value not only as to 
camp conditions, but also as to conditions among civilians, or 
concerning transport, or indeed as to practically anything he might 
have noticed as he travelled through Germany. He might also bring 
with him code arrangements for communication back to the camp 
he had left, by which a steady supply of information could be 
assured through the medium of prisoners 9 letters out and home. In 
this way the prisoners could receive information and advice as to 

It was a security officer's job first of all to keep his prisoners in. 
To achieve this he advised the Kommandants in the camps, in the 
* first instance, as to direct prevention methods. These would be the 
siting of barbed wire fences and searchlights, the disposition of 
guards, the methods of searching individuals and quarters, the 
arrangements for in-going and out-going checks, the roll-calls, and 
so on. Security also had to decide what should be done if and when 
an escape should actually take place. The arrangements taken under 
the above heads I have already described as they were in force and 
as they were or were not effective in Colditz. A further matter coming 
under the control of Security was sabotage and tKe bribery of Ger- 
man personnel. 

Since written communications were allowed between prisoners 
and their home country, and vice versa, the necessity for censorship 
arose, to cope with this obvious though official leak in any country's 
security ring. We could not very well control incoming mail as to 
quantity, but we rationed the prisoners to three letters and four 
postcards a month outwards, written on special forms provided by 



Unlimited food parcels through the International Red Gross 
were also allowed. 

Private clothing parcels were rationed to four a year per head, 
and the IRC was responsible for their transport only. Food parcels 
from occupied countries such as France, Poland and Holland were 
sent privately and only on the production of the appropriate forms, 
obtainable in the countries themselves. It was in private parcels 
that we found quantities of forbidden material, as described. 
Independent charitable organizations such as the YMGA also sent 
gifts to individuals or for general camp use. 

Letters were checked visually and chemically for codes or secret 
writing, while parcels were X-rayed for forbidden goods. At 
Colditz we allowed German newspapers in, provided we found 
nothing in them which might be of use to the prisoners by way, for 
example, of train timetables or similar announcements. Some books 
and authors were on a blacklist. Technical books were, as a rule, 
allowed, but, of course, there were exceptions. 

All this is inanely passive defence. However, active defence on 
security matters consists, among other things, in the acquisition and 
posting of agents in the ranks of the enemy. "Security without agents 
is like a housewife without a broom," a Russian once said to me. 

In Colditz we had no broom, no listening post at all. There were 
only two traitors the whole time I was there, and they came forward 
by chance, and on their own initiative and not as a result of any 
plan of ours, and betrayed their people only once in each case. One 
other was spotted in time by the other side and rendered ineffective. 

We collected and confiscated a mass of escape material from 
parcels, and our museum was well worth a visit, including not only 
these articles, but finished objects in the shape of uniforms, passes 
and civilian clothes of all kinds manufactured by the prisoners either 
with the help of contraband or by themselves alone. But in many 
respects I am bound to admit failure, failure in some cases only 
suspected and never proved until after the war. There must have 
been something wrong with our practical arrangements, as shown 
by the many occasions when prisoners got out. I felt there must also 
be gaps somewhere, through which information and material 
assistance were getting in.* 

We never discovered any British codes or secret writing, and only 
one or two instances of such among the other nationalities, mostly 
fairly harmless, dealing with personal or political matters. 

What we did find above all was money, German military passes, 
civilian identity cards, escape maps, even with details of frontier 

* Notuntil I read the prisoner** books after the war did I learn of the success 
of Lieut Guigues in his by-passing of our parcel office alarm circuit, which 
completely neutralized the Colditz security system at one of its vital points. 


guard posts, tools (especially hacksaw blades), miniature wireless 
parts, compasses, dyes, blankets for civilian suits with patterns 
marked out on them, pills for producing symptoms of various ill-* 
nesses, and so on. Certainly, we could not complain of nothing to 
do in that camp at Colditz, or indeed of nothing to learn. In due 
course, even the OKW in Berlin began to take notice, and began 
also to use its head. By the summer of 1943 it had formed an idea, 
and then a plan. Why not copy the methods of the British War 
Office, and communicate with our own prisoners in Allied hands 
in the same way as they were attempting (only attempting?) to do 
with their prisoners in Germany? 

Since the Security Office at Colditz had more experience than 
that of any other camp in this matter, due to its continuous instruc- 
tion, as one might call it, at the hands of the British Secret Service, 
the OKW picked on us to fix up this link with our prisoners, who 
were mainly in the United States. 

Local Partei leaders in Germany were required to give us lists of 
reliable Partei members in captivity. Letters to them were passed 
through our hands for "treatment". Articles were sent down to us 
from Berlin for inclusion in parcels once contact had been established 
with these addressees, and we spent a lot of time making up consign- 
ments to these men, "dynamited" according to the approved British 
or French methods. 

To begin with we had to establish communication back to our- 
selves. For this purpose we sent out a plastic substance in small 
wrappers with the instructions printed on them. This stuff was 
called "Philip 5 * if a fingernail or a matchstick were pressed into it 
and then written with, invisible writing remained on the paper. 
Questions were written on the finest Japan paper and compressed 
into soup cubes, or dried peas, for example. These methods were in 
fact successful. We never established a communication by code in 
what one might call plain letter-writing. Monthly we sent out from 
Colditz over one hundred "dynamite" parcels to different addres- 
sees. None of the parcels resembled each other in any way, as to 
packing, labels, senders' names, or so on. The whole operation was 
code-named "Ekkehard". 

The great difference between us and the British and French was 
that we did not set up a traffic in escape material in any shape or 
form. No money or passes or tools were dispatched. I mentioned that 
"articles" were sent to us by the OKW for onward transmission to 
certain of our prisoners. That is exactly what I meant newspaper 
articles, propaganda articles, and extracts from Hitler's speeches. 
Or from Himmler's. But how often did we not have to cut out por- 
tions of these, when events had contradicted the prophecies or 
assurance those two had made! 


We did not find any propaganda articles in the prisoners' mail 
the British War Office never even thought to boost its men's morale 
with political speeches in print. The chief question that we put to 
our prisoners was, are the Partei members still loyal? Are attempts 
being made upon their loyalty? But no Colditz prisoner, as far as we 
discovered, was ever asked by the War Office, for example, if his 
own loyalty was still 100 per cent. In fact, had such a question come 
at all, I imagine the prisoner might well have replied that, having 
regard to the nature of the question (and therefore the sanity of the 
questioner) he required notice before giving an answer. 

We had reports on camp conditions and requests back from our 
prisoners, in secret writing, for radio sets. Thereupon the OKW 
told us that if the British could send these things to their prisoners 
why didn't we go ahead and do the same? Hell, yes but none of the 
parts that they sent over ever got past our X-ray machine. The OKW 
replied by asking, well, then, how did the French officers in Colditz 
get their radio past it? Our answer to this was that they had stolen it 
out of the parcel office with a false key after distracting the sentry, 
as a traitor had told us. "Yes," continued the OKW, "and since 
then you've had an electrical foolproof warning system on the door. 
Are you sure there are no more radios in the camp?" 

"There are no more radios in the camp." 

"Well, perhaps our prisoners-of-war will also make false keys and 
knock parcels off out of the Allied parcels stores before they put up 
alarm systems. Give them something worth trying for." 

In vain we replied that German radio sets at the time were far too 
big for the concealment of their components in cakes, in soap or in 
tobacco parcels, by the British method. The OKW then ordered all 
prisoner-of-war camps in Germany to send to us whatever miniature 
radio parts they had or might collect from prisoners 9 parcels or from 
their quarters. We in Colditz were then snowed under with sets of 
every kind, size and shape, both new and old but no miniatures at 
all ! These seemed to be reserved for Colditz only, or else had already 
got into other camps and been successfully concealed. 

Before we got down to even trying to send out concealed radios, 
the war, and "Ekkehard" too, came to an end. We had indeed tried 
to copy the Secret Service but with other ends in view. 

There was only one successful escape home of a German prisoner 
that of Lieut. Von Werra, who got from Canada to the then 
neutral United States, through to Mexico and home by U-boat. 
Generally speaking, escaping was not in the forefront of our 
prisoners' minds. To most of them, getting home from the USA 
was an enterprise almost beyond the bounds of possibility. 

However, the British had by far the best of this smuggling service, 
although I treasured for a while a letter to a British prisoner which 


had slipped back into the mail, from which the English censor had 
removed it. His remarks to the loving writer of it were a model of 
sarcastic reproof! 

Although we seemed to have dosed all gaps in our lines a tip from 
"Security News" indicated another one we hadn't spotted. We read 
that the laundering arrangements had been exploited in other 
camps, and that officers had been establishing contacts as a result 
of permission to send their clothes out for washing and ironing* 
They had found another channel for the bribery and corruption 
of our civilians. 

So one day we decided to give the Colditz dirty linen a public 
airing and opened up all the cardboard laundry boxes before 
sending them on. Among the bundles of clothing we found evidence 
of quite a traffic of coffee and chocolate one way, and liqueurs 
another way, together with love letters from impassioned washer- 
women to French and Polish officers. 

Parties on both sides of the wire were appropriately punished with 
solitary confinement. 

Meanwhile, the loss of Tunis, and so of the whole African front 
was greeted appropriately on subsequent parades by the prisoners. 
Holland was put under martial law. We had air-raid alarms several 
times a week now. The enemy's shipping losses were dropping. We 
wondered what had happened to our submarines. 

Another example of the result of excessive contact came when the 
dentist's attractive assistant fell victim to the tall, dark and hand- 
some personality of Flight-Lieut. Chaloupka, a Czech RAF officer. 
We had to make use of the town dentist in his own surgery, because 
he refused to come up to the castle again to give treatment after once 
losing his coat there to his patients. Repeated dental appointments 
indicated that Chaloupka' s teeth must be in a bad way ! and finally 
we had to have the girl moved in her own interests. I do not know 
what contraband passed between them but it was suspected that the 
girl's soft heart must have provided something more than love letters 
for her amorous airman. 

One could philosophize here quite a bit on sex as a driving force, 
the ultimate one, perhaps, that ^rill throw overboard everything that 
religion, custom, social instinct and practice command. Of course, 
there was a sex problem in Colditz. I cannot say whether married 
prisoners were better off than unmarried in this respect, but I don't 
think that after two or three years there was much to choose between 
their different states of mind. 

Occasionally we had glimpses into the prisoners' condition from 
their letters. 

. Once an officer posted home a drawing of himself, idealized 
perhaps, but a good likeness, in perfectly fitting uniform, smiling, 


wdl and fit The paper seemed unusually thick and heavy, so we 
slit the picture, looking for concealed messages behind it. There was 
indeed a second sheet. It contained a message a very passionate one 
and again a sketch of the writer, not this time in uniform, but in 
all his (perhaps imagined) Olympic nakedness, the true representa- 
tion no doubt that he would wish his sweetheart to see and keep in 

Once at the beginning of morning roll-call I found in an open 
doorway in the north-east corner of the yard a birdcage in which 
was suspended a figure of the Ftihrer, a very cheap form of insult 
I felt, but what could we do about it by way of discipline? 

In June 1943 we saw the beginning of the end of Colditz as an 
international camp, except for a few weeks right at the end of the 
war. The first change was the arrival of two batches of sixty-seven 
British officers in all, who had made a mass break from a tunnel at 
Oflag 78, Eichst&tt, in Bavaria. One of this group was Captain the 
Earl of Hopetoun, son of Lord Linlithgow, one-time Viceroy of 
India. He was shortly promoted by the OKW to the rank of 
Prominente, thus bringing the number in this category at Colditz 
up to three. 

The concentration of Promnente in Colditz gave rise to rumours 
of an increase in British military interest in the camp that held them. 
Swiss papers even reported that a plan was on foot to liberate them 
by some parachute attack, and get them away by plane. The OKW 
went so far as to organize a kind of Riot Squad on our own Colditz 
model, on permanent standby for action at the training camp at 
Leisnig. The unit consisted of tanks and lorried infantry to be rushed 
to Colditz should any air landing be reported in the vicinity. More 
spectacular rescues did, of course, take place during the war, in 
particular that of Mussolini from the Gran Sasso by Otto Skorzeny.* 

Next came the transfer of the Dutch company to Stanislau in 
Polish Galicia. We sweated at the thought of their impending depar- 
ture, our hearts bled for the Kommandant at Stanislau. 

We lost only one of the Dutch company on the way to Poland, 
one of the van Lynden cousins, but the sixty of them made a 
veritable hornet's nest out of Stanislau, and many more of them got 
away from there than would have done from Colditz. Indeed this 
was again an example of another of the OKWs big mistakes in that 
it mixed hardened escapists with comparatively harmless prisoners. 
The old lags got away from an easier dink the innocents became 
infected with the same idea. 

In July came the order for the French and Belgian companies to 

*And, of course, the body-snatching of German top scientists and rocket men 
by both sides at the very end of hostilities. 


go to Oflag loG at Liibeck. They went in two groups of about a 
hundred each. The first left on the yth and arrived at full strength 
without incident. The fun began with the second group six days 
later, by when I suppose the prisoners remaining in Colditz had 
worked out the routine of departure. 

The amount of luggage to be taken each time was enormous. It 
always was. There were boxes, sacks, cartons, bundles of blankets, 
cardboard suitcases and so on. Our one cart was heavily overworked, 
between the Schloss and the station. 

We dug two would-be escapers out of the stacks of personal 
belongings : one was Lieut Klin, a De Gaullist officer, the other 
was Giles Romilly! We only caught the latter because we had 
virtuously set a guard on the railway baggage between.cartloads to 
prevent pilfering, and the sentry caught Romilly breaking out of his 
box. Our Kommandant ran his finger reflectively round his collar 
when he heard that Romilly had been recaptured. It was he who 
would have had to answer, and with his head, should "Emil" have 
got away. 

In due course the second group of French officers arrived at 
Liibeck, also without loss. Too good, I wondered, to be true? Sure 
enough, after a while we spotted three strangers in the British 
company, which was by then the only nationality represented in 
what they called "Allied Occupied Territory in Germany". 

We discovered there had been a switch. Three French officers had 
stayed in Colditz, and three changelings had gone up to Liibeck in 
their place. We sent the three French off, and Lttbeck returned 
their namesakes, so they thought. 

But, actually, of the three who came "home 19 , only two were 
the right British officers, the third was still a Frenchman. He spoke 
good English just as Lieut. Barratt, being a Canadian prisoner from 
the Dieppe raid, spoke good French. This was bluff upon bluff 
and Liibeck fell for the double bluff. Back went the Frenchman and 
in due course back in exchange came Peter Barratt, whose place the 
Frenchman had taken. 

The confusion in these large camps of several thousand officers 
was so bad that, in the end, security just went by numbers, as com- 
plete identification became practically impossible. Fingerprint 
checks were all right as proof positive, but what if a couple of dozen 
prisoners were shown to be fake? I think in some camps they found 
it better to let sleeping dogs lie. 

With the departure of those who gave Colditz its international 
character, I could not help reflecting about these various national 
groups who had been there. 

We on the staff at Colditz knew, and accepted, that the prisoners 
would consider it their duty to continue a sort of cold war against 


us even in captivity. We should have been surprised had it been 
otherwise. We knew that collaboration during hostilities ranked as 
treason and of course disgrace. We on our side were brought up to 
the same standards of military duty and honour. After all, the 
tradition of the different European Officer Corps have the same 
source, hammered out in centuries of continual war between the 

While we were in Colditz my rule was, "Do as you would be 
done by", and I say that I stuck to it throughout 

It is perhaps rash to identify the particular with the general and 
vice versa but the Dutch company were, in my view, unique. I think 
one could fairly say that they were indeed all for one and one for all. 
We never had any "nonsense" from the Dutch. Their escape average 
was the highest of all nations in Colditz. Their behaviour as a 
military unit was impeccable, not only in their discipline but in their 
unrelenting and active hostility to ourselves. 

Admittedly these were the Aiu of the Dutch Colonial Army, some 
of them of mixed blood, but in spirit they were all from the same 
mould. I would rather have had them as allies than enemies. 

French ingenuity and energy was something to be wondered at, 
but why so often did they, if I may say so, let themselves down, 
with stupid and empty personal attacks, on myself and on others of 
the German staff? Could not the French company have been 
satisfied with their great contribution to the common stock of 
prisoner successes, without indulging in childish and, as it turned out, 
utterly ineffective, reactions, which served, surely, only to reaffirm 
the legendary hate-complex between our two countries? What I 
have never been able to swallow is the assistance given by the 
French religious and medical personnel to escapers. These people 
were privileged under the Geneva Convention. Their actions were, 
in my view, an abuse of the privileges granted and in consequence 
of the Convention itself. 

The last of the Polish company left Colditz for Spitzberg in 
Silesia in August 1943. The Poles had two fanaticisms that im- 
pressed themselves on my mind. One was love of their country, 
the land so seldom their own, so long desired, so briefly known 
a mere twenty years from 1920-1939. The other was hatred of 
Germany. The Poles seethed with hatred of us, but in Colditz their 
behaviour was exemplary. 


Franz Joseph 

WITH THE departure of the Polish officers, Colditz was no longer 
an international camp. Two-thirds of its occupants had been 
moved, leaving about two hundred British officers, including 
De Gaullists, and one or two Americans. We on the Kommandantur 
staff began to wonder whether, taking all in all, life would not 
quieten down in the camp in its new shape and form* There were 
several reasons for this wishful thinking. 

In the first place German reverses on the main war fronts might 
make the prisoners believe that the end was so near that to escape 
was taking a needless risk. In the second, escape was now becoming 
increasingly difficult. We had microphones all round the outside 
walls, which recorded even the pacings to and fro of our sentries. 
The wall surface at the seam between their yard and ours was 
networked with alarm wires under the plaster on our side. We 
tightened up again on the order to sentries to demand passes from 
everyone who came past them, and punished those who failed to do 
so. But the weakest point in all our security was again not the 
mechanical but the human element. 

On one occasion we found in a hide-out a comparatively perfect 
pass bearing so good a copy of the Adjutant's signature that it 
must have been drawn from an original. It purported to be an 
internal Colditz camp pass establishing the identity of the holder 
as a member of the guard company. All that was lacking was the 
holder's name. Plainly to obtain this copy some guard had been 
bribed for the loan of his own pass, perhaps for a short while on more 
than one occasion* 

In reply to this we called all passes in and reissued them. The new 
passes were printed, however, to our special Security instructions. 
The printer was told to use, as identification number of the blank 
pass, not just the one figure for all passes of this same type. He 
was told to print a sequence of numbers covering the total of the 
blank passes printed, and to print these figures in very small type. 
We kept this fact secret. There was, of course, the normal serial 
number in large print which was usually the only number to which 
persons paid any attention* As we issued the passes, we noted down 
the minute special number of each pass and set against it the name 
of the person to whom it was given. In due course, among the booty 
after one of our hauls of contraband, we found another perfect pass* 



In this case once again the prisoners had naturally copied down what 
they had assumed was the printer's normal identification letters and 
figure, as well as the serial number printed plainly on top of the pass 
for all to see. This find gave us the identity of the guard who had lent 
his pass to copy. 

We had the man up and, of course, he talked himself out of it. 
He said he had once taken his coat off for half an hour while watch- 
ing two civilians at work in the prisoners* quarters perhaps in this 
interval the prisoners had "borrowed" his pass. There was nothing 
we could do about it except to warn him to be more careful in 
future, and also to make certain that he was never again put on the 
job of keeping an eye on civilians who went to work in the prison 

It was now September 1943, the start of the fifth year of the war. 
Number 3 Platoon of the Guard Company was on duty the night of 
the and. The NCO in charge was an old Sergeant-Major, over sixty 
years of age. He wore several decorations from the First World War, 
including the Iron Cross (First Class). He was a man of middle 
height, of military bearing, and on the best of terms with all his men. 
Not only was he well known as a character but he was physically 
recognizable in the simplest possible way by his outstanding 
personal feature, his huge Hindenburg moustache ginger- 
coloured, grey-tipped, and dipped always in the prescribed 
regulation manner. Because of this moustache the Sergeant-Major 
was known to the prisoners as Franz Joseph. 

Round about midnight Franz Joseph appeared on his usual 
rounds outside the castle walls,* accompanied, however, by two 
sentries with slung rifles. He came to the last two of the guard posts 
on the east side of the castle. Here was the gate with the catwalk 
above it, that six officers had escaped through almost exactly a year 
previously. Above the gate we had put a small catwalk after this 
escape and an extra sentry was now posted on it. The height of the 
catwalk above the ground enabled him to look over the edge of the 
canteen terrace and survey what had till then been dead ground all 
along the foot of the buildings. The last two sentries, over the gate, 
and on the beat up to it, had been on duty for about twenty 

Franz Joseph dismissed the sentry below the catwalk with the 
remark, "Your relief is early tonight. We have had an air-raid 
distant warning.'* The guard was replaced by one of the men who 
had come with Franz Joseph but did not himself move off towards 
the guardroom, waiting apparently for his mate on the bridge above 
the gate to be relieved too and come back with him. The Sergeant- 
Major then went up to the bridge and relieved the last sentry, 
replacing *"' with the second man he had with him. The catwalk 


sentry, having been relieved, descended the steps from the gate and 
was just about to march off when, for no reason that he could later 
define, he decided to ask Franz Joseph for his Sergeant-Major's pass. 
For once someone obeyed the rules we had been trying to drill into 
our sentries for years, and obeyed it in spite of himself. 

"Are you daft?" asked Franz Joseph. "Don't you know your own 

The pass seemed in order, but, nevertheless, the guard had a 
vague suspicion and pressed his warning bell. He also covered 
Franz Joseph with his rifle and ordered him to put up his hands. 
Joseph cursed not very fluently but did indeed put his hands up. 
In due course a corporal and one man appeared from the guard- 
room in answer to the buzzer. Franz Joseph did not know the pass- 
word when asked. The corporal drew his revolver and demanded 
Franz Joseph's. There was a struggle. The corporal swore later that 
Franz Joseph tried to draw his pistol. He himself fired. 

"Good God," said one of our three sentries present "You've shot 
our Sergeant-Major." 

But it was Lieut. Michael Sinclair, in almost perfect disguise, who 
collapsed to the ground. The true Franz Josef appeared next on the 
scene, having heard the shots, and the two phoney sentries were 
marched off, Lieut. Hyde-Thomson and Captain Lance Pope, 
leaving Sinclair on the ground. It was as simple as that. Three 
prisoners disguised as a German sergeant-major and two sentries 
had tried to cancel out the last two of our sentry posts at this vital 
corner of the building. They relied on blind obedience to orders on 
our part, and on the hope that at that time of night our men would 
not trouble to ask their own Hauptfddwebd for his pass. It worked 
with one man, but not with the second. 

Above the canteen there had been watchers, ready and waiting to 
go. Two sets of window bars we found sawn through. Had our 
sentries gone back to the guardroom, how many prisoners might not 
have got away in the five to ten minutes that they would have had 
available before the real Franz Josef came out to investigate? 
Months of rehearsals, months of run-throughs all failed because, 
for once, one of our sentries did what he had been told to. Thinking 
back on it afterwards, he did finally agree that what made him first 
suspicious of Franz Joseph was the feet that when the Sergeant- 
Major, as he appeared to be, came up on to the bridge, he did not, as 
he usually did, look on both sides of the catwalk as he advanced 
along it towards the sentry. 

We held, of course, a special parade right away that night, but all 
were present. Tempers were extremely high after the tension had 
broken. There had been, as I said, months of preparation for this, 
and I do not know how many had hoped by then to be well on their 


way to freedom. One officer accused us of murder, for which he was 
later sentenced to two months in Grandenz military prison. 

The British witnesses claimed that Sinclair had his hands up 
when he was shot. Our corporal swore that Sinclair had grabbed 
for his (dummy) revolver. To settle this point, our Kommandant 
sent in a report. A military court refused to prosecute, and the 
corporal was later sent to the East Front. Although shot from 
three-foot range, Sinclair was comparatively unhurt The bullet 
struck a rib and passed out under his shoulder-blade. His disguise 
was as near perfect as it could be. Only the moustache made from 
the hairs out of a shaving brush, dyed, was the weak spot. It did not 
quite curl properly, but was, as we have seen, good enough for the 
dull light below the searchlights and for the dim intelligence of the 
first of the sentries to be relieved. 

We put Sinclair's uniform in our museum but burned it before 
the capitulation. He himself was back in the camp after a few days 
in hospital at Bad Lausick. 

The Koromandant was almost beside TiJTnsdif at this escape 
attempt. The brazen impertinence of not only attempting to 
impersonate some of his men, but in point of fact the successful 
impersonation in at least one instance ! 

Shortly afterwards, an orderly refused to obey an order. The 
Ferret reported the fact. 

"Why didn't you use your gun on the man?" said the Kom- 

Relations were getting very, very strained. 

The Kommandant's deputy, known to all as "Turkeycock" from 
his colour, and from the cloak in which he used to strut around, was 
also a man of violence. Those of us constantly in contact with the 
prisoners preferred to avoid even the threat of weapons, keeping 
them only in reserve should it be necessary for self defence. 

On October yth we caught Lieut. Orr-Ewing in German uniform, 
in a paper dump just outside the castle. The British orderlies had 
taken him there it seemed in a basket of waste. 

Shortly afterwards, our Security Officer left, He had his enemies 
on our staff, and the near escape of Mr. Romttly, when the French 
left, had shaken his morale. He went to Muehlberg. His replacement 
was a lawyer, who had been severely wounded in Russia. He went 
about on sticks, but in spite of this disability was determined to go 
back to the front and win a decoration, and was posted for active 
service after about six months.* 

The Swiss Government, acting as representatives and intermedi- 

* This officer, Major Hans Horn, won the Ritterkreuz in February 1945, after 
breaking out with his troops from encirclement by the Americans at Echternach 
in the Ardennes area. He died in Soviet hands at Sachsenhausen. 


aries between the British prisoners on the one hand and the German 
High Command and the British Government on the other, visited 
the different major PW camps three or four times a year. A typical 
visit took place in October 1943. Two representatives arrived with 
an officer from the OKW to escort them. The main points for 
discussion between them and ourselves and the prisoners were (i) the 
Franz Josef affair that is, the alleged shooting down in cold blood 
of Lieut. Sinclair; (2) the lighting in the castle; (3) collective 
punishments. These points were first of all discussed between us and 
the Swiss, and the results of the conversation were brought up in 
talks between the Swiss and the British Senior Officer in our 
absence. Finally the Swiss came back to us again with such of the 
British views as they thought practical. 

As regards the first point our Kommandant had sent in a 
report on the matter and we were awaiting the result of the in- 
vestigation by the Military Court. 

On the second point, we agreed that the lighting in the castle was 
bad, but we confessed the impossibility of providing a new cable 
two miles long to the power station to take the increased current 
necessary. We had neither the labour to rig the cable and pylons, 
nor had we wire in sufficient quantity to rewire the whole castle. 

Point three was an old one. We took the view that the theatre 
was a privilege to be withdrawn at will whenever we required, for 
disciplinary purposes or even without reason. We won this last 

On the night of October igth, there was a very heavy air raid on 
Halle. Hundreds were killed and thousands injured. The electric 
current was off in Colditz for twenty-four hours. It was the closest 
evidence of bombing that we in the castle had ever had. The parade 
on the following morning was postponed from 7 o'clock to 8 o'clock, 
and then it was just like old times -shouts, whistles, demonstrations, 
indiscipline. However, the numbers were correct. 

At ii a.m. the Kommandant called me over. "Look at this," 
he said. 

I read a telegram: "To Kommandant Oflag 40 Colditz- 
Saxony. Kindly collect Lieut. Davies-Scourfield picked up on 
7th instant near Hildesheim. Signed Kommandant Lamsdorf- 

I was dumbfounded. "Have we a Davies-Scourfield?" asked the 

"We had, it seems," I replied. 

"Well, see where he is." 

I went into the camp and asked the British Senior Officer, 
Colonel Broomhall, where this officer, Davies-Scourfield, was. 

He replied, "I'm sorry to say he's not in the camp*" 


I answered, "I'm sorry to say he's back in our hands," and 
reported back to the Kommandant. 

"Well now since October 7th, nearly a fortnight ago, there 
have been about fifty parades. Are you telling me that you LOs 
have been fooled over the number of prisoners in this camp four 
times a day for a fortnight?" 

I asked for twenty-four hours to think the matter over. In the end 
I concluded the only possible weak spot, where we might have been 
misled, was in the count of those who were temporarily sick and who 
were counted, sometimes rather crowded together, at one end of the 
hospital ward. But I wasn't really satisfied that I had been fooled this 
way four times a day for over fourteen days. How had Scourfield 
been covered up so long? As to how he got out, we reckoned he must 
have taken the same route as Lieut, Orr-Ewing at the beginning of 
the month in a box of waste paper. The date, I will quote again, 
was then October 2Oth, 1943. When he got back, Lieut. Davies- 
Scourfield said he had left camp on September 30th, nearly three 
weeks before he was caught. When he was picked up his story was 
that he was a Sapper by the name of Brown. That was why he was 
sent to the other ranks camp at Lamsdorf, where he eventually 
admitted his rank. 

It was not until the following March that the mystery was solved 
as the result of another escape attempt. By that time I had become 
Security Officer myself, and had never been really satisfied with my 
explanation of how Lieut. Davies-Scourfidd got away. One evening 
towards the end of the month the guard on the catwalk facing the 
Senior Officers' block or Saalhaus, noticed a rope flick back into 
one of the windows. Upon his reporting this, the Riot Squad rushed 
up to the room concerned and found, of course, nothing whatsoever 
except that the bars had been cut through. Someone seemed to have 
got out, but who had got out, and when, and where was he by 

Below this window the small approach yard stretched, from the 
Archway (which was guarded), between the Saalhaus on the right 
and the high outer wall on the left to the guardroom. Sentries were 
day and night on the catwalk, some way out from the outer wall in 
mid-air, above the thirty-foot drop from the top of this wall to yet 
another terrace below. 

No one had been seen moving around in the approach yard, 
about fifty yards by ten, by any of our people in the guardroom, 
or by the archway sentry. Had anyone got out at all? or was this 
just a trick? 

I ordered a "SonderappelV to establish if anyone was indeed miss- 
ing. While they were forming up I walked up and down the 
approach yard thinking. Suddenly someone beat on the inner side 


of an air-raid shelter door leading into a basement tinder the 
Saalhaus. A voice called out from inside the shelter. "Here we are 
let us out, will you no need for Sonderappell." I opened up and 
there was Flight-Lieut. "Bush" Parker from Queensland, Australia, 
and another officer, both in German army dungarees. 

"What are you two up to in there?" I asked* "You've no chance 
at all that's an air-raid shelter." 

"I know," replied Parker. "We thought there would be a second 
exit That's the rule in Germany, must be two ways, one in, one out 
of all air-raid shelters. This place is all wrong. There's only one 
door. I'll report you. It's against the rules." 

I laughed and searched both of them, finding nothing. In the 
shelter I found a screwdriver and a small heap of ashes, probably 
paper money and passes that they must have burnt when they found 
there was no way out except through the way they came in. They 
must have profited by some distraction of the man on the gate and 
trusted to luck as to where the persons from the guardroom window 
might have been looking, before dropping out of the window down 
the rope, and opening the door and getting into the cellar. A slight 
angle in the Saalhaus building did give them a little cover from 
guardroom surveillance, but they were wide open to view from the 
archway. Someone must have distracted the sentry there. 

In due course, I let just Parker back into the camp. I had my 
suspicions as to the identity of his companion. He said he was Lieut. 
Bartlett. I wondered about this, and having learnt in so many cases 
that a hunch was as good as a cert in prison life, I sent over to my 
office for his identity card. I asked the man for details on it and he 
had them all correct. However, his face did not seem quite to fit the 
photo. I put him in one of the archway cells. 

As I was still suspicious, I sent the Riot Squad in to fetch out Lieut. 
Bartlett. They came out with an officer they said they knew as 
Bartlett. But he said his name was Gamp. This second officer, 
Gamp, looked far more like the Bartlett in the photo than the so- 
called Bartlett I had in front of me, and I looked from one to the 
other and back again to the photograph of Bartlett, that I had in 
my hand. 

Again I sent the Riot Squad back into the camp, this time with 
orders to fetch put the officer whom they knew as Camp. They came 
out with "Camp" and I asked Km at once, "Who are you?" and 
he replied, "Gamp." 

Immediately the first "Camp" (who had been brought out as 
Bartlett) called out to the second "Camp", "Haven't you been 

It was getting difficult to keep track of all these identities and 
officers, but it was now plain to me that the third man really was 


Camp and the second man was really Bartlctt. The question now 
was who was the first prisoner, the one I had caught with "Bush" 
Parker? Bartlett had been in arrest recently* The sergeant in charge 
of the cells was brought along and he swore that the man claiming 
to be Bartlett was not the Bartlett he had known in arrest. I told 
him to go back through the list of names in the arrest book and see 
if he could put faces to all of them. He went right the way back until 
he catne to Lieut. Michael Harvey, twelve months previously. 
There he stopped. "The man in front of you,' 5 he said, "who gives 
his name as Bartlett, is not Bartlett, but Harvey." 

All details of Lieut. Michael Harvey, RN, and Flight-Lieut. Jack 
Best, RAF, had gone to the OKW in Berlin in April 1943, for their 
"escaped successfully" file.* We had been informed by the British 
some time in May of the previous year that these two had in point 
of fact got away to Switzerland. We thought they had got out of the 
park gate disguised as Germans, when our NGO Beau Max caught 
two others trying the same trick. 

However, I had a spare copy of their photographs, and fetched 
out Michael Harvey's. As I walked back to the archway I thought, 
could it be that Harvey had been in the camp concealed somewhere 
in the course of the last twelve months? I was quite staggered by this 
thought. The sooner I settled the identity question the better. 

"Good morning, Mr. Harvey," I said. He replied, "My name's 

"Listen," I told him. "In three days Lieut. Michael Harvey's 
papers will be back from the OKW. If your fingerprints tally with 
those on Harvey's papers there is no doubt as to your identity." 

And so he gave up and agreed that he was in fact Lieut. Mike 
Harvey, an officer who had apparently escaped from Colditz just 
under twelve months before! 

Now then where was Best, who "escaped" at the same time? 
Again I sent the Riot Squad into the yard after showing them Best's 
photograph. "Get this officer," I said. "Go in at about 5 o'clock 
when it's quiet and they're all having their tea. That's when you'll 
find him." Two of them went in, and there was Best leaning up 
against the walL "Come with us, Herr Leutnant Best," they said, 
"the game is up." 

These two officers had actually been in the camp for one week 
under twelve months, living at first in total concealment, somewhere 
we never discovered, and later living in the quarters more or less 
as they liked, as we let them slip further out of our minds as "gone 
away". When necessary they had stood in to fill up gaps in the 
ranks on parade, on behalf of officers who had escaped unknown to 
us, as in the case of Lieut. Davies-Scourfield three months previously, 

* Sec page 114. 


as I now realized. For the rest of this time they had lived a normal 
life in the camp except that they did not turn up on parades. 

The Dutch had filled in with Max and Moritz, the dummies. 
The British had made do with Harvey and Best the "ghosts". Best 
had actually escaped with Sinclair over the terrace on the west 
front in January, and on recapture gave himself to be Lieut. Barnes. 
In fact he did twenty-one days' cells under that name, and still he 
was not recognized. All the real Barnes did was absent himself as a 
temporary ghost in Best's place, along with Harvey. 

It was a hell of a story I let myself go (in some admiration, I 
confess) in my report, again direct to Berlin, copy only to Dresden. 
But the real hell of it was that the OKW just would not believe me ! 
They worked it out that these two had left the camp on April 5th, 
1943, and must subsequently have returned at their own conveni- 
ence ! They even sent a detective officer down to investigate. 

Our Kommandant thought this a very poor job. "Is this place a 
damned hotel?" he asked, "where people come and go as they wish? 
I don't believe any prisoner-of-war would ever want to return here 
once he got out, and I will say that it's nearly as difficult to get in 
here as it is to get out." 

The detective heartily and amusedly agreed with what were truly 
the facts, and the first letters home from these two officers confirmed 
our own reasoning. These were the first letters they had written 
for over a year and they said in them that the ban on communication 
home was the worst ordeal of the whole adventure. 

On October 3ist the Partei again held a demonstration down the 
town. As the parade crossed the river bridge on this occasion, all 
windows on the west front of the castle were fully occupied by the 
prisoners. At a given signal, cheers roared out over the valley, and 
all the orchestral brass blew in triumphant and welcoming discord. 
The noise carried even to the Kreisleiter's house. This time his wife 
rang up and complained. We turned out the guard on to the terrace 
below the row and ordered the windows to be cleared "or else ..." 
The prisoners withdrew, only a few pumpkins fell among us. 

Later that winter w;e had visits from all kinds of higher authorities. 
At one time it seemed possible that the castle would be abandoned 
entirely as being quite unsuitable for this kind of special camp and 
special prisoner. But in the end we all stayed put. The Kommandant 
received confirmation of his right to enforce discipline by any and 
every means and later he received the personal recommendation of 
General von Keitel in this connection. 

Not only were relations between us and the prisoners becoming 
badly frayed by the winter of 1943-44, but among the staff too there 
was quite a lot of friction. To begin with food was inadequate. Some 


had lost house and home and all their possessions. And some had 
lost members of their families as well, either at the fronts or in 
bombing raids. 

All this worked on the nerves of the Colditz staff. Worst of all, 
however, was the now complete lack of confidence in our military 
and political leaders. Goebbds' line was, "We must win, therefore 
we shall/ 9 It wasn't a very sound line of argument. 

Some of our staff left the camp at their own request and were 
posted elsewhere. Others grumbled because of the "kid glove 
methods" of the camp officers, as they held them to be. 

"What this lot wants," said one officer, "is Napoleon's whiff of 
grapeshot. That would show them who's boss here." 

In November the Kommandant's deputy appeared at a parade 
loud cheers of welcome. He ordered a second parade an hour later 
and when it took place the cheers were even louder. So he ordered 
a third and threatened a fourth, fifth and sixth. . . . Even louder 
cheers. On the third occasion the Turkeycock pleaded another 

That same month two of the British orderlies escaped from a 
working party Corporal Green and Private Fleet. They walked 
all night to Leipzig and took a train to Kottbus. They had no 
papers and were caught on the train. We collected them from 

The fifth Christmas of the war found in most people's minds the 
conviction that the end was only a matter of time. There was no 
doubt as to the result, and among the prisoners very few reckoned 
on yet another Christmas in the bag. 

Symptomatic was the British suggestion for a truce the first time 
they had ever put this forward, between Christmas Eve and 
January and, 1944. We naturally agreed, with considerable relief. 
We had other things to do than relax, however, especially after the 
air raid on Leipzig on Christmas Eve. But how was all this going to 
end? A catastrophe for Germany was inevitable, and to my mind 
that meant a catastrophe for Europe. 


JVb Co-operation 

JUST OVER a fortnight after the end of the Christmas truce, Lieut. 
Sinclair escaped again. This escape was, like so many others, a quite 
fantastic affair. 

The idea arose from the delay which the prisoners had noticed and 
timed, in our switching on the searchlights round their half of the 
castle in the evenings. The shortage of current was something we 
always had to bear in mind and very often it was quite dark before 
the lights were actually switched on. This meant that the sentry on 
the lower or garden terrace on the west side of the castle, and the 
sentry in the pagoda at the north-west corner there, could hardly see 
that face of the castle in detail. The sentry on the pagoda always left 
his tower just before the searchlights came on, and patrolled the 
garden terrace together with the regular sentry down there until 
relieved. Neither could see on to the upper terrace twenty feet above, 
from their own level. The prisoners worked it out that they often 
had several minutes of near darkness before we grudgingly switched 
the current on each evening. During this time it was, in theory, 
possible to get out of their windows, if the bars were cut, and down by 
rope on to the upper terrace and then by this same very lengthy rope 
over the balustrade and down on to the garden terrace which was 
about forty yards wide and twenty feet below again. The darkness 
would be nearly complete, the searchlights not having been 
switched on, and if it were a dull or rainy evening then their safety 
was even more assured. Along the outer edge of the lower terrace 
the sentry paced back and forth. And from the barbed wire fence 
behind him the ground fell again steeply to the backyards of the 

The sentry's beat on the lower terrace was right back up against 
this fence, and this reduced the amount of dead ground concealed 
from his view by the upper terrace, which jutted out from the ground 
floor of this part of the castle. 

It was January igth, 1944 a dull, dark evening with a little 
rain time, about 5 p.m. Suddenly the bell on the west terrace rang 
in the guardroom. One of the NCOs went out through the back door 
of the guardroom, presuming some officer was going the rounds and. 
wanted to be let in from the upper terrace. The bell-push was not 
on the back door of the guardroom itsdf, but twenty yards along, on 
the balustrade. The searchlights were not switched on. It wasn't 



time yet. The NCO found no one on the terrace near the bell or 
anywhere else. He walked a little way further along and suddenly 
saw a rope whip up over his head and into one of the prisoners' 
windows. He rushed back into the guardroom and rang up the 
Security Officer. We all turned out and dashed into the prisoners 9 
quarters on the first floor of the cellar house, where we found the 
grille of one window sawn through. There was no sign, of course, 
of any rope. This had undoubtedly been hidden away in the interval 
between its being pulled in to the room and our arrival some minutes 
later. We switched on the searchlights and searched both terraces. 
We found footprints on the flower-beds on the lower terrace, and a 
strand of wire cut in the outer fence. From here a home-made rope 
hung over the edge. The guards there swore they had heard nothing. 

A woman below in the town, however, whose house backed on 
to the foot of the rock on which the castle stood, said that she had 
seen two or perhaps three figures climb down from the lower 
terrace and over a shed in her back garden and away. 

We warned the usual circles of authority with the code word 
"Mousetrap", and then held a Sonderappell to discover exactly how 
many were missing and who. 

Soon after this famous Appell started they put out the main lamp 
high up on the eastern building with a shot from a catapult. In the 
weak light of the remaining lamps it was impossible to count the 
prisoners. So I ordered the lot up to the then unoccupied first floor 
across the yard, on the east side. They took so long to get up even, 
this short distance that I literally drove the tail of this funeral up the 
stairs with gentle pressure from the rifle barrels of my Riot Squad, 
held crossways. 

We herded the crowd into two unoccupied rooms up there. I 
had the identity files brought into a third room which I kept empty. 
As I knew pretty well all the officers by sight and name, I called the 
nearest to come in to this room and started to check. After I had got 
through about thirty, however, someone fused the lights. I shouted 
to my NCOs to sit on the files, lest they disappear. I called for 
lanterns, and after an hour and a halPs work I eventually decided 
there were three officers missing. One of them was Lieut Sinclair. 

Next morning I checked again and found that only two officers 
were missing. Apart from Sinclair the other missing officer was 
Lieut. Barnes (or so we thought). 

A week later these two were caught at Rheine on the Dutch 
frontier, were returned to us, and did the usual three weeks of 
solitary confinement. 

The next to go was Lieut. Millar, a Canadian officer. We never 
discovered with certainty how he got away, nor was he ever seen 
again by us, nor did we ever have any news of him from anyone else. 


A jacket that could have been his was found on the road some miles 
away and was brought back into the castle. 

A few French orderlies still remained in the camp after the 
departure of the main body of French prisoners to Lftbeck the 
previous summer. Mixed parties of British and French orderlies used 
to go out for exercise outside the castle, under guard. Mussolini had 
been posted to the east front that winter to fight against the partisans. 
There he was killed. His successor in Colditz was not so familiar 
with the faces of the other ranks in his care, and on one occasion 
this month Lieut. Orr-Ewing took the place of one of the French- 
men. He got away from the walk and away into the woods. The only 
sentry with the party chased him as far as the river Freiberger Mulde, 
having left his rifle behind so that he could run faster. Orr-Ewing 
felt that he could not stop simply because of the river, waded into the 
water and swam across. The guard funked the swim, but yelled to a 
railway worker on the other side who caught the escaper when he 
reached the far bank. 

In February 1944, the Security Officer left and was due for 
replacement by a nominee of Dresden (Ast. 4). Our Kommandant 
thought this a poor idea, and rang up to say that to put a newcomer 
in charge of Security in Colditz was a complete waste of time, and 
would play straight into the prisoners' hands. In point of fact he 
told Ast. 4 that if they insisted on their own appointment, he would 
make them completely responsible for security in the camp, as he 
could not possibly accept that responsibility himself with a man who 
in the circumstances would be in no way equal to the task. He 
suggested that I was the only person who could do the job properly, 
since I had been in Colditz over three years, knew practically all the 
inhabitants by sight, and was familiar with all the tricks and all the 
attempts and the details of nearly every escape that had ever taken 
place. The Kommandant had some influence with the OKW in 
Berlin to whom he referred the matter in the end, and finally 
Dresden gave way and it was I who was appointed to be Security 
Officer as from that month. I held the post till April 1945 over a 
year later. 

It was for me a fateful step, but I did not think so at the time. 

At that period of the winter it was extremely cold. There was deep 
snow everywhere, though the weather was lovely. It was, in fact, 
just right for the bombers. Heavy raids went on all the time, on 
Leipzig, on Halle and all around Colditz. 

It was some time before the prisoners realized that I was now 
Security Officer. I had been one of the Duty Officers for so long that 
I was a familiar figure in the camp. As I alone on our staff spoke 
English, I was more often than most inside the camp during 
searches and checks, and for the purpose of negotiations and so on. 


If things had continued on their old plan I should, as Security 
Officer, have done less duty inside the prisoners' yard than as an 
ordinary Duty Officer. But as the number of Lager Officers had been 
reduced from four to two I had now to do ordinary Lager Officer's 
work as well as what should have been the rather more backroom 
job of Security. 

So life in Colditz for me continued much along the old routine. 
My promotion did not in any way change my relations with the 
prisoners. It merely increased the amount of work and of responsi- 
bility which fell on my shoulders. It was in some ways quite a relief 
to be so busy on this small battle-front. It momentarily enabled me to 
ignore the mounting catastrophe outside. 

I thought that as a new broom I would strike an original note and 
sweep round for the first time in some corners which hitherto had 
been quite overlooked. I therefore arranged a search of the rooms 
occupied by our three Prominente. Two of these, Lieut. Alexander 
and Giles Romilly, shared one room, while Captain Earl Hopetoun 
lived in a second. This was my first effort as a Security Officer, and 
I cannot regard it as a success. During the search of Hopetoun's 
room a hammer disappeared from our tool kit. Alexander told the 
sentry I had given him permission to get some water from the 
kitchen and the sentry let him out, against my orders. Alexander had 
picked up the hammer during the search and whilst out in the 
kitchen presumably passed it on to someone else before he came back. 

I did not report this loss. In point of fact I felt too stupid. But 
Captain Hopetoun found out about it, and pointed out to me that 
this hammer was the one he always borrowed on parole for stage 
work. He was one of the theatrical producers in the camp. Hammers 
were fairly easy to make, but we always collected any unauthorized 
ones. Hopetoun got this one back for me, and so I was able to hand it 
out to him later on parole, whenever it was wanted. I thought this 
was a nice gesture, as my face was completely saved in my own Mess 
where this loss was never known. 

In March of that year, 1944, the camp staff was again reduced. 
Fouine the Ferret went to Italy and never returned. His successor 
discovered a tunnel in the showers when he went in there one 
morning rather earlier than the Fouine was in the habit of doing. 
The cover over the hole in the floor was hardly noticeable and was 
also quite watertight. That afternoon the General came on a visit 
from Dresden. To show him the sort of job we had, the difficulties 
we were up against, and the calibre of the experts on the other side, 
we stood him on the cover to this tunnel and said, "There is a tunnel 
here in the floor, Herr General now see if you can spot it." Not 
being trained as a PW detective, he failed but this gave him some 
idea of my job, and I hope he realized why our Kommandant had 


made such a fuss about his Dresden Security Office appointing or 
trying to appoint a complete novice to the position of Security 
Officer in Colditz. At the time we could not think why this tunnel 
was being made just at this spot, until we remembered a previous 
hole near by. It seemed they were still aiming at the yard drain. 

In March, too, I began to turn my attention to the foot of the 
dock tower where the great French tunnel of two years previous 
had been discovered. 

There were several odd haphazard pieces of building in this 
north-west corner of the yard, the tower, the cellar, the chapel, 
air-shafts and so on. They had all been built at different times and 
had all been joined on to each other wherever it seemed handy. 
There had been no master plan for the construction of that part of 
the castle. On the ground floor of the west side, or cellar house, we 
still kept the parcel office and store, but the upper floors were now 
occupied by the British. It was noticeable, just as it had been with 
the French two years ago, how smartly they raised the warning cry 
of "Goons up", when the Riot Squad, or indeed any of us, wandered 
in their direction. 

Through a hole in the cellar wall between the tower and the 
chapel we were able to reach into a shaft that led back upwards to 
ground level and here we found odd material which varied from 
time to time sacks, a piece of copper piping, odd pieces of rope. 
Something obviously was going on around here but our microphones 
gave no sounds from the outside of the buildings of any work in 
progress. I decided it was better to keep just a casual eye on this 
corner and the circular staircase that led up from it, and let the 
prisoners carry on with whatever work they were doing. At least 
it would keep them occupied and so comparatively happy. Until 
the microphones gave notice of work within their range, the prisoners 
could not be considered occupied in any particularly dangerous 
way. Should the microphones eventually begin to record sounds of 
tunnelling, then it would be high time to investigate, if we had not 
done that already. 

However, I went into this corner of the yard and began to carry 
out a search of the ground floor, then of the first floor, then of the 
second floor. 

I had the mason and the carpenter with me and one sentry just to 
keep an eye on things. The inner wall of the building, the courtyard 
wall shall we call it, was about four and a half feet thick at the base 
here, rising at that thickness for two floors. It was quite wide 
enough for a tunnel, or even just a hide in the width of it. 

We found nothing on the ground floor or the first floor but when 
we came to the second floor, there in the bottom of a built-in 
cupboard, we did find a hide. 


We were really looking for an entrance to some tunnel which we 
were sure was being dug in the cellars three floors below. Our 
experience with the French chapel tunnel had told us that the 
entrance might be absolutely anywhere however deep a tunnel 
might start horizontally. In that case, the entrance to the tunnel 
started four floors up the building, at the top of the tower. So we 
had therefore to search everywhere. In the bottom of this built-in 
cupboard we found a hide which was in effect an absolute gold mine 
in both senses of the word. 

The British had boasted once, nearly three years previously, that 
they had over two thousand German marks in their treasury. This 
boast had rankled in my mind for years and I had always hoped that 
one day I would find that money. And now under the floor of the 
cupboard we found their main hoard : 2,250 marks, 4,500 French 
francs, plus passes, tools and some clothing two sacks full. To 
crown it all we found a miniature radio. This was the real thing. 
We had, in fact, come upon the very first miniature radio ever 
discovered in any PW camp. We reported this directly to Berlin, 
as well as to Ast. 4, Dresden. We had found some spare miniature 
valves earlier in a parcel of tobacco and now we had the set they 
were meant for. 

Pleased though we were with this very worthwhile discovery we 
still had not found the tunnel entrance. Indeed, we had given 
ourselves another worry. How had this radio got into the camp? We 
assumed that it had been smuggled in by guards or had come in in 
some parcel which had not been properly X-rayed. 

Next day, acting on a hunch, I broke into a bricked-up space at 
the bottom of the circular staircase to the British quarters, and there 
was the tunnel we were seeking. It was about twenty feet long. The 
entrance to this was in a window seat on the first floor up above. 
The seat was in the thickness of the wall, and under it the tunnel 
entrance dropped down to the ground floor. It was a very narrow 
way down in to the main working tunnel and I think only those of 
very slender build could have been employed on that job. So far as I 
recall, this working was referred to later as "Crown Deep" because 
only officers of the rank of major were working on it. Apparently 
they had some sort of monopoly in the affair. 

The British thought they had reason to suspect a stool-pigeon over 
cither "Crown Deep" or the hide in which I discovered their 
treasure the day before. Indeed, Wing Commander Bader shouted 
down that second morning, "Pay the fellow who gave the hole away, 
with your own food parcels, and not with ours !" He was, however, 
quite wrong and attempts on our part to get information from 
prisoners were hardly ever successful. 

I have already mentioned cases of collaboration that we discovered 


between our own guards or civilians and the prisoners. We became 
aware of the extent of this more and more, as we continued to 
discover hides containing took, passes, maps and money. Much of 
this must have come in concealed in parcels, but much must also 
have come in through guards and civilian workers in the camp. 
Bribery and corruption was going on the whole time and the dice 
were fiilly loaded on the side of the prisoners. 

They had more food than they wanted and with this they used to 
bribe our men. Occasionally they would make a straight swop of 
food for food, chocolate or coffee for eggs or fruit, and so on, and 
even for alcohol, although this they made for themselves quite 
successfully in the last two years of the war. Their best medium of 
exchange, however, was in the form of the thousands of cigarettes 
which they could lay their hands on. Coffee also they had at their 
disposal (Nescaf6 usually), a commodity which had entirely dis- 
appeared in Germany by the end of 1942. It was easy to understand 
the success that the prisoners had on the bribery front. 

The question arose, had we anything comparably desirable to 
offer any prisoner should he offer himself to us for the purposes of 
acting as a "stooge" or informant? We could, of course, offer a man 
his freedom but that would only bring suspicion down on his head. 
As Propaganda Officer and later as Security Officer, I often 
pondered over this problem and I must say that at no time did I get 
beyond the first step making an offer. I got nothing back in either 
case. In the three cases reported in this book, information was 
offered voluntarily. 

One of the British orderlies wrote repeatedly in his letters home 
that he was sick of acting as servant to officers and wished that he 
could go and work again in the mines, which was his job at home. 
The censor told me of these comments and I had the man over. 

"I could send you away, you know,' 9 I told him, "but I should 
want some information in exchange as to what is going on inside 
the camp." 

"Captain Eggers," he replied, "I may not like it here but I am 
still British." 

I could not but admire his reply and in due course I did have him 
transferred. But he never gave me the slightest information. 

However, again in March 1944, I had a chance, this time a real 
chance, of an agent of my own. A British Merchant Navy officer was 
sent to us by the OKW. He said that he had been broadcasting 
propaganda on our behalf from the "Concordia" Studios in Berlin, 
where he'd had a row and been sacked. I mention no real names 
as the matter is now over, and the man has been punished in 
England as far as I know. I will call him by a name which was never 
known in Colditz I will call him Grey. When Grey arrived, he at 


once offered me his services as informant. He said he had lived 
eight months in Berlin on his own, and drew a salary from our 
authorities of 800 marks a month (about 50). He broadcast for us 
and wrote scripts as well. He had a girl there. He had been a member 
of the British Fascist Party before the war. 

Now he offered to pass back to me such information on escape and 
security matters as he could collect in the camp. All this seemed too 
easy, so I put a few questions to him first. 

"Who's going to win this war." 

He replied, "England, of course.* 9 

"What's going to happen to you then?" 

"Oh I'll go back home and spread National Socialism in 

It occurred to me the fellow was a bit weak in the head. 

<c Wdl be very careful inside the camp. You will be suspect 
until you are cleared. I think a Canadian officer, a lawyer, is in 
charge of the PW security. Have your story ready." 

"I'll say I escaped from Oflag 3D, and hid in Berlin for several 
months until I was caught in a razzia [round-up] in the streets after 
an air raid." 

"Where were you captured in point of fact?" 

"At Narvik." 

It turned out he knew some prisoners in Colditz who had been 
on his old ship. 

"That's fine," I said. "They will speak for you if there is any 

Lieut. Grey went into the camp. I brought him out two days later, 
ostensibly for photographing. He had not much to say, but what he 
had was interesting. 

"I asked someone if I could get a letter out to a German addressee 
without going through the censorship. I was told to hand my letter 
to an officer I was shown. Don't know his name yet. I did so, and 
later in the day I was told the letter had already been posted." 

Here to me appeared proof of bribery among the guard company. 
Someone was acting as a carrier pigeon. I never caught this go- 
between. At that moment I thought my stool-pigeon would do the 
job for me in time. 

That was all Grey had to tell me. Two days later the British 
Senior Officer handed in a note as follows : 

"We do not recognize the man Grey as a British officer. I have 
given him an escort by day. I will not guarantee his safety by night." 
After a brief discussion with the Konunandant we decided to remove 
Grey for his own safety. 

He told us how he had been discovered. On the third day he 
had come up a second time for questioning in front of the Canadian, 


Colonel Mcrritt, V.C., and had been asked again for the full story 
of his whereabouts since capture in 1940. When he had finished his 
tale, the remark came, "And you have just been eight months in 
Berlin, broadcasting from the Concordia Studios." He knew at once 
the game was up. 

How did the Colditz prisoners know this? They got their answer 
as they got so much of their information, from the stream of experts 
we kept sending into this special camp, bringing in both hard news, 
rumours and gossip. 

A Captain Julius Green, a dentist, had been sent to us from the 
other ranks camp at Lamsdorff. His patients there came from 
among those in the camp itself, numbering many thousands, and 
from those who worked outside on the surrounding farms, and in the 
mines all round that area. 

Now and again a party would go off to Genshagen, at our invita- 
tion. This was a camp near Berlin, a propaganda camp. Both 
British officers and NCOs were there at different times. 

We ran a camp, too, for disaffected Irish in the early days, but we 
found the Irish worse than the Poles when it came to making 
decisions. We tried to find possible collaborators in the base camps 
and then sent them off to Genshagen for a rest and for submission 
to the delights of freedom. After that we asked for active colla- 

Grey had been one who had gone the whole way. He had broad- 
cast for us. There were also others. But most of these who went to 
Genshagen decided in the end they had had enough of it, they were 
not going to play with us and they returned to the different camps 
after a nice rest, bearing with them interesting information. Some 
of them, of course, went back to Lamsdorff. Some talked to the 
dentist, Captain Green. Captain Green remembered. He re- 
membered names. He came to Colditz. Grey came to Colditz. 
Captain Green remembered Grey's name. 

We removed Grey from the prisoners* yard and installed him in 
one of the archway cells, until Berlin should decide on his disposal. 

While here, Grey was fed on normal German rations, which he 
found not very satisfactory. He asked for Red Cross food and 
cigarettes. The British Senior Officer refused them. We had nothing 
extra to give the man, but in the end the Kommandant decided he 
was still legally a prisoner-of-war and therefore entitled to food 
from his own country. So on our own initiative, we took one parcel 
a week for Grey out of common British Red Cross stocks. 
It was some months before I got him transferred. 
In the end Grey joined the British Free Corps, a volunteer unit 
which we recruited, largely for propaganda purposes, though 
ostensibly to fight with us on the East Front. It was not a particularly 


successful venture and never went into action. Other volunteer 
units against Bolshevism were made up from White Russians and 
from races such as the Ukranians, and so on. These did actually 
get to the front, so did the "Viking" unit of Scandinavian volunteers. 

In June 1944, just after D-day, we had two visitors to Colditz, 
in the uniforms of the British Free Corps, whose initials were on the 
arm-bands they wore. These two said they wanted a chance to talk 
to the prisoners, with a view to getting some of them to join up in 
the BFC. This did not seem much of an idea to me, even in my 
capacity as Propaganda Officer. It was hardly the moment, June 
1944, for the British to start active collaboration with the enemy. 
Anyone who knew Colditz could be certain that, first of all, there 
would be 100 per cent non-co-operation, plus, if possible, violent 
reaction against these two men. Second thoughts, I imagined, might 
produce a crop of pseudo-volunteers, whose sole purpose would 
undoubtedly be to escape at the first opportunity, from any line of 
march to Berlin and the East Front beyond. 

We could not see that these two had the slightest hope of attaining 
their object, but I felt it my duty to help them as best I could. So 
while we would not take the risk of any trouble that might arise 
from escorting these two "recruiting officers" around the castle, we 
did do them at least the favour, and I don't think it was any more 
than that, of distributing their leaflets among the PW mail. In these 
leaflets it was stated that no action was intended hostile to the 
British Crown. The war was condemned as the work of Jews and 
international finance, and it was declared to be a betrayal of the 
British Empire. The pamphlet ended with an appeal for an Anglo- 
German alliance. 

The prisoners at first burnt all the pamphlets, and then, on second 
thoughts, demanded more as souvenirs. The visitors by then had 
gone we had no more of their leaflets left. 


Waiting for the Bett 

Two MORE attempts were made in April 1944 to break through 
the "seam" where the buildings of the prisoners' and the German 
yards backed on to each other. 

When the snow tunnel was discovered two years previously, 
we had found a small three-cornered empty space in the south-east 
angle of the yard between the then canteen and the Evidenz or 
Conference Room* And now, one morning about 7 o'clock, the 
cleaners were busy on our side of the "seam", when they heard a 
banging on the iron door at our end of the short passage through the 
wall from the attic above this room. They at once fetched the guards 
who were surprised to hear a cry of, "We want the Kommandant, 

we want to visit the Kommandant " "Fetch us some coffee," 

and so on, in English ! 

I opened the door in the wall and found three officers there in the 
six-foot passage through the thickness of the wall. They had 
apparently spent most of the night sawing away the hinges of the 
door on their side, but were rather tired when they came to the 
second door on our side. There was no lock to force, but only bolts 
and hangers to be cut through. They had got the first door off its 
hinges, but had no time to do the same with the second one. They 
had been very careful not to touch off our alarm wires which did not 
cover the doors but only the walls up to them on our inner side. We 
had originally intended to use this way in the other direction 
should we ever want to get quickly from our quarters into the 
prisoners' yard. For this reason we had left these two doors free of 
warning wires and this the prisoners had somehow discovered* 
They were profiting by this gap in the alarm circuits to turn our 
entrance into their exit. 

About the same time two officers broke into the Hcxcngang 
corridor again in our wall over the prisoners' kitchen, with the 
window in it overlooking their yard. Unfortunately for them during 
this incursion they cut the alarm wires, the warning light flashed on, 
and they were caught by the Rollkommando when it dashed off to 
discover why the red warning light was flashing on that stretch of 
the circuit. 

Towards the end of the month we had instructions to draw up a 
list of serious medical or wounded cases for presentation to the 
International Medical Commission, with a view to their repatriation 



upon the Commission's advice. This "Repat" Commission was 
entrusted with the task of examining prisoners who claimed 
repatriation on grounds of chronic illness, or high degree disability 
from war wounds. 

The Commission consisted of two Swiss and three German 
doctors. Its recommendations were final. 

Our own camp doctor and English doctor were thereafter busy 
for some months dealing with the many applications made to appear 
before this Commission upon various grounds, genuine, specious 
and spurious. In the end they agreed on a list of twenty-nine names 
to be forwarded as prospective candidates for repatriation. Security 
approval was required for the applicants and the OKW right away 
ruled out the two De Gaullists on our list. They also objected to 
Wing Commander Douglas Bader, on the grounds that his leg 
amputation dated from a pre-war accident and were not war 
wounds. They also objected to Captain Green, the dentist from 
Lamsdorff, possibly because he had been responsible for spoiling 
my plan to plant lieut. Grey in the camp as a "stooge". They also 
objected to the presence on the list of Flight-Lieut. Halifax, an 
officer who had been very badly burnt when shot down during a 
raid over Berlin. He had expressed himself in the very strongest 
terms, as dissatisfied with the medical treatment that he eventually 
got for his wounds. Later in the year he was allowed to go on parole 
to the University Hospital at Halle. He stayed there for many weeks 
and was treated by first-class eye specialists. I took him there and 
back and learned that he was very satisfied and had good relations 
with the staff. 

When the Commission turned up at Colditz the Senior British 
Officer announced that if the whole twenty-nine on the original 
list could not appear then not one of the remaining twenty-four 
would do so. However, we replied that we had our orders from the 
OKW and that these must be obeyed. We could therefore present 
only twenty-four of the candidates to the Commission. As no one at 
all appeared at the gate to see the Commission at the appointed 
time, we ordered a special parade. When I went in to pick out the 
twenty-four sick and wounded the parade broke up in disorder* 
I thereupon called out the entire guard and posted them round the 
milling, yelling mob in the centre of the yard, forced my way into 
the thick of this and hand-picked the twenty-four myself, knowing 
them all by sight. I marched each and every one of them away at the 
point of the rifle and eventually got them all over to the Kom- 
mandantur and up in front of the Commission. The five "exceptions'* 
I left behind. 

As the Commission had been waiting a good hour while all this 
was going on, the President demanded the reason for the delay. 


He could not believe that prisoners who had a hope of repatriation 
would be late for so important an appointment. The reason was 
explained. It was stated that our higher Security authorities had 
banned the presentation to the Commission of five members from a 
list agreed by both sides in the camp itself. The Swiss President then 
refused flatly to examine patients who had been brought up before 
friTn at gun-point. A call to Berlin by the German members of the 
Commission was necessary to break this deadlock. After some 
wrangling the OKW agreed that the five officers the trouble was 
about should be presented to the Commission after alL 

I made a sorry "Cannossagang" back into the yard to fetch them. 
The welcome that greeted this 100 per cent capitulation beat all 
records. However, neither Bader, nor Green, nor Halifax were 
repatriated, but nine of the others, including the two De Gaullists, 
were passed. 

This extraordinary reversal of its decision by the OKW brought 
us in Colditz up against a situation we had kept trying to avoid. 
The inevitable sequence was order, counter-order, disorder. This 
was a small matter admittedly, in a small place, but at this time 
Hitler had shot seven of his officers for expressing doubts as to the 
ultimate victory and we older officers began to wonder at the 
value of any instructions which were likely, as we had just seen, 
to be cancelled just because some prisoners-of-war objected to them. 
Security at Dresden had all along taken the view that the medical 
condition of PWs and their suitability for treatment or repatriation 
was no concern of theirs. The OKW burnt its fingers badly in 
this matter and put our own noses in Colditz very badly out of 

The early summer month of May was fine and warm that year of 
1944. With only 2OOodd prisoners to guard on the one hand, yet 
with all this worry from bombing on our minds, on the other, 
and at the same time waiting anxiously for the next inevitable step 
in the war the invasionpurely we might be excused from thinking 
that as all the old exits from Colditz were by now securely buttoned 
up, then only by means of spectacular and therefore, one might 
conclude (given the psychology of the prisoner who sees the end in 
sight), inadvisably risky new schemes, could any further escapes 
take place, if at all 

It was May and. The walk in the park came trailing back up the 
steep path, apparently overcome by springtime heat and fever. 
They passed the basement of the house that stood out from the upper 
roadway. No chance of escape there any more. Just by was an old 
rubbish dump overflowing with tins, cardboard, branches, paper, 
old sacks, wood wool, rags, and so on. It didn't actually stink, but 
it looked so untidy and horrible that no one on our side ever cast a 


glance at it. The prisoners, though, were less delicate. They had 
second thoughts in the matter. 

When the walk got back to the prisoners' gate there was a bit of 
long-drawn-out trouble over the count. Everyone looked so dumb 
and stupid that our people never thought to speed it up. 

When they had checked and recounted two or three times they 
woke up to the fact that the walk was one short. At once "Kartojfel- 
supp" for a special turn-out, and at the same time the telephones all 
round began to ring "Mousetrap", an officer missing, again from 
Colditz, details to follow (we hoped). Out went the Riot Squad on 
foot and on bicycles to their different posts at railway stations, 
crossroads, bridges, etc. 

One cyclist had to check the footpath from Golditz to Gross 
Sennuth. This ran for some way along the east bank of the River 
Mulde in open land through the meadows. Our cyclist met there, 
about two miles off, a slight, fair-haired young man, trotting along 
with a rolled-up blanket under his arm. 

"Who are you, where are you going, and why? And what's 
in that blanket?" 

"Well actually as a matter of fact . . ." and the blanket was 
unfolded to show, sewn all over it, tins, cardboard, branches, paper, 
old sacks, wood wool, and so on. It was Lieut. John Beaumont, the 
oboe player in the camp orchestra. He had dropped down under the 
rubbish dump under this camouflage on the way back from the 
walk, while the sentries allowed themselves to be distracted for just 
a few seconds by the other prisoners. Beaumont was lucky to get 
away unseen, but he was asking too much of fortune in hoping to get 
'right away over the fields in broad daylight. He would have done 
better to hide up somewhere until nightfall. 

On Whit Monday when some of the staff were on leave, we had 
an unexpected piece of good luck. I took a walk that afternoon in the 
Ticrgarten up the little valley from the enclosed part of the park. 
Idly I wondered whether the prisoners would be up to anything on 
that sunny peaceful day. Everything was quiet, with the trees in full 
leaf. The people were in holiday mood, although that meant, those 
days in Germany, only that it gave them time to think about things 
they would rather forget. Were the prisoners up to anything? Of 
course they were ! And by a fluke we caught them at it. 

One of our handymen, an old chap who'd lost a leg in China, 
suddenly bethought himself of a gnr>all repair job he had to do for 
his wife. He took his bunch of keys and went across our yard to the 
workshop on the south side of the castle. In the carpenter's shop 
there, he was startled to flush two figures in khaki shorts and shirts 
who rushed out of the door and disappeared up the stairs. He gave a 
yell to the sentry outside, and had a quick look into the next room* 


There was another figure, similarly dressed ! The old man stood -with 
his back to the door and waved the largest of his keys it was pretty 
old-fashioned and heavy and said, "If you try and come past me 
I'll strike you down." 

The Riot Squad came in and collected Lieut. Hamilton-Baillie, 
who was engaged in sorting out what might have been a magnificent 
collection of booty. He had opened several drawers and had on the 
floor in front of him a heap of wires, switches, fuses and electrician's 
tools of all kinds. 

The rest of the Riot Squad meanwhile had roared on up the 
stairs on the trail of the two who had got away. They went right to 
the top of our quarters, searching all floors, and finally came to the 
attic. They followed in the attics round the south and east side of our 
buildings, and at last came to a hole in the end gable. 

Outside this was the roof of the buildings in the prisoners' yard. 
This roof was two feet lower than ours. They got out on to it and 
from there into the attic through a window. The floor of the attic 
was the roof of the circular staircase which ran up from ground level 
to the top floor in the canteen corner. By the time we trundled 
through all these obstacles the trail was cold. 

The prisoners had now tried to get into our quarters, at this point 
of junction, at every single floor level the canteen, the lavatory 
tunnel from their Long Room from the Dutch quarters on the 
second floor, through a hole in the back wall of the third-floor Mess 
and now through the attics 1 By the greatest good fortune we had 
found this new way into our own quarters in good time to prevent an 
escape, and also just in time to save ourselves from a serious loss of 
electrical equipment. 

Three days later the Riot Squad caught Major Anderson and two 
others changing shifts in the tunnel under the operating chair in the 
dentist's room. Plainly there was going to be no letting up in 
escaping however the war might be going elsewhere. 

Now and again during searches in 1944 we came upon home- 
made telescopes, or even found people standing at windows scanning 
the near or distant horizon with these useful instruments. 

These were constructed basically of rolls of cardboard. Two or 
even three cylinders were fitted into each other loosely, so as to slide 
in and out with lenses at either end of the whole construction. The 
lenses came from broken-down spectacles, and were of two kinds, 
each to its proper position. The outer lenses magnified the image, the 
ones at the inner end reduced it. These telescopes gave a multiplica- 
tion of up to X 3. Earlier prototype models were up to six feet in 
length, and very shaky, requiring a crew of two besides the 
"viewer", to keep them straight and steady, but the superior types 



which developed from these, with multi-lens end-pieces and three 
inter-sliding tubes, did not come to more than eighteen inches in 
length when closed and so were easy to conceal. With these primitive 
but effective instruments the prisoners were able to scan the land- 
scape and pick up such details they required from the houses and 
streets of the town below and the fields beyond. They were also able 
to mix pleasure with business and cast their eyes upon sunbathers 
(sunbathing is a widespread habit in Germany) by day, or on less 
intentional exposures indoors at night, or at dawn. Harmless though 
these reported activities may well have appeared, the existence of 
these astronomical instruments could prove dangerous to us, and so 
we collected as many as we could. 

With the whole of the town under surveillance the norms of 
traffic could be established. Anything untoward on the railway, on 
the roads or over the river bridge could be instantly noted and 
reported by the prisoners to their own Security Officer. 

We had often thought that surprise was not always achieved when 
springing our monthly searches. For one reason, we gave the guard 
company a general warning of "Search in the next twenty-four 
hours*'. This made it all the easier for anyone on our side passing 
information to the prisoners to cover up. He might be off duty 
when the search actually took place. Apart from that, the Reich 
Security Office insisted that a dozen or more CID officials from 
Dresden now and again should take part in these searches. These 
people were more trouble than they were really worth to us, but it 
had to be. 

The Dresden party began by coming as civilians, but by 1943 
they resembled a small army as they marched over the bridge from 
the station in full uniform. The word must have flashed round the 
prisoners* quarters, "Goons up for search". The Dresden people 
had no cars to spare for this jaunt, and necessarily came by train. 
There were not all that many trains and whichever PW was on 
"Station Control" would know exactly when to make a special 
report He would certainly have had a detailed time-table to hand, 
made from observations over a period of the times of railway traffic, 
both goods and passenger. The rough date of the departures in 1943 
could have been guessed from the prior arrival of goods trucks to 
take the baggage of the French, Dutch or Poles, a day or so pre- 
viously. Once the counter-alarm was given among the prisoners, 
deep hides would be securely battened down, temporary hides 
evacuated, and expressions of bland innocence rehearsed to greet us 
when we arrived en masse to break up this or that room or floor in the 
early hours of the dawn. 

Indeed, we found far more contraband with snap searches or 
irregular patrolling by the Rollkommando or myself, with just a 


couple of men, working to a small scale plan, than we ever did in 
major search operations. For some time we kept two NCOs on 
permanent patrol "snooping" in the quarters wherever they might 
choose to go, day and night 

Mass attacks were extremely destructive, necessitating repairs to 
the walls we had broken open, and hence to risky contacts between 
workers, extra sentries and PWs. They often lost us valuable material 
("borrowed" by the prisoners), and were quite nerve-racking as to 
the precautions and preliminaries. In addition, they usually left a 
trail of protests and complaints and appeals to Dresden, the OKW, 
and the Swiss Protecting Power in their wake. All these had to be 
dealt with by Security and the Kommandant, requiring lengthy 
reports to higher authorities, copies all round. 

All this paper work might take weeks to thrash out. Very often 
it took seven to eight weeks to dear up the aftermath of one search 
and by that time another was long overdue. In fact, I think the 
prisoners made it their business to spin out the consequences of any 
search as long as possible in the hope that we would not care to 
run another one (which according to our orders we should do 
every month), before the last one was cleared up. In^this way they 
could gain extra weeks of comparative quiet on their own escape 


Not content with extending their observations by means of 
telescopes beyond the walls of the castle into the immediate vicinity, 
the prisoners, we had reason to believe, were trying to establish 
some sort of contact with the outside world by signalling. There were 
two ways of doing this. One was by ordinary flashlight and the other 
was by radio transmission. Whether they actually did try either of 
these two methods I cannot be sure, but we certainly thought we 
had sufficient indication to that effect to make counter-measures 
advisable. The morse code is international in its application and 
after we had received certain reports we posted a couple of signallers 
in the back room of an inn down in the town, thought to be the 
receiving end of a lot of dots and dashes flashed by some kind of 
amateur heliograph in the castle by day. Our men could not make 
anything out of the presumed signals that they did receive, so maybe 
it was just a diversion for our benefit. 

* Some time after this a signal unit of ours carried out an exercise 
in the Colditz forest and reported that an unauthorized transmitter 
was working somewhere in the direction of x the castle. 

The Kommandant was quite certain that there was a radio 
somewhere in the prisoners' part of the camp. We had found a lot of 
components as well as a complete set before now, and if there were a 
receiver, then there might well be a transmitter as wdL 

We kept a listening post in the woods for several weeks with a 


direction-finder, but in the end they could not report any concrete 

As from May 1944 \ve noticed on our visits that the prisoners 
were giving the usual warning signals to each other in a visual form 
rather than acoustically. 

This seemed rather odd until we worked it out. What we noticed 
was that, whenever we went into the yard, squares of cardboard, 
coloured diagonally or across, would be shown from one particular 
window in the east block. This was the whig directly opposite the 
entrance gate. We reckoned that these signals indicated who had 
come into the yard on any particular occasion. Maybe it was a stray 
"Goon", maybe it was the Riot Squad, or maybe it was just myself. 
However, the cards could also indicate in which direction we were 
moving. We might be going half right past the Saalhaus door on 
towards the kitchen ; we might be going more dangerously perhaps, 
half left past the cells to the north-western corner staircase by the 
tower. It seemed to us that whoever was being warned was working 
in some clandestine way from such a position that the entrance gate, 
in the west side of the yard, where there was a break in the buildings, 
could not be directly observed. It took a week or two for us to solve 
this riddle. 

I expected at any time, such was the ingenuity of the prisoners, to 
find a complete telephone system linking all the floors and all their 
rooms, and if I had found a public telephone with a coin box installed 
in the yard one morning, I should not have been very much 

Once again about this time our human material let us down badly 
in a case where the mechanical system had done its job 100 per cent. 

At i o'clock in the morning a red light showed on the alarm 
switchboard, somewhere in area 9. This was the kitchen, through 
which several attempts had been made down the air-shaft from the 
prisoners' quarters above in the Saalhaus. We sent a man in to 
investigate but he found the kitchen door locked. This was a case 
where our own security measures worked against ourselves. TKe 
key for the kitchen door was not on its hook at our main gate because 
the paymaster responsible for the kitchen had taken it with him and 
was not to be found. We rang up the gate, and found that he was 
marked down in the book as having left earlier in the evening. He 
had not come back by that time and indeed did not return until the 
morning, the key in his pocket. 

Meanwhile, the red light had gone out. Perhaps, we thought, it 
was just a local disturbance due to damp or maybe some dust 
or some plaster had fallen on the wires. And so the guardroom let 
the matter drop, 

Next morning when our kitchen was opened up we found that 


an inner door had been broken open. An exit hole to the Saalhaus 
was also discovered from our storeroom to the ground floor changing- 
rooms in the prisoners' quarters. 

It was this last piece of work which must have set off the warning 
light in the guardroom. Our alarm wires must have been cut when 
the hole was made. We assumed that the reason why the red light 
went out again, giving the all-dear, was that subsequently a bridge 
across the circuit had been effected by means of a spare piece of wire. 

However, from this day, the signalling with cardboard squares, 
which we had noticed when we came into the yard, came to an end. 

We did not think this kitchen incident worth making a special 
report about, so we put it only in our monthly bulletin to Ast. 4 
at Dresden, and not to Berlin. 

Oddly enough, Ast. 4 raised quite a stink about the matter. It was, 
they said, the first time that anyone had succeeded in by-passing an 
electrical warning system. Did this mean that these wall-surface 
warning grids were no good at all? It appeared that someone had 
something to worry about namely the firm who installed these 
systems. We discovered later that their director was an officer at 
Dresden and had an interest in the matter. However, we beat off 
this attack from our own Security HQ,and in due course they left 
us alone. 


Breaking Point 

D-DAY. Here was what we had all been awaiting for months. 

Our immediate reactions were what has happened to the 
Atlantic wall? Where are our U-boats? What has become of our 
Luftwaffe? What was the V.i doing that wonder weapon which 
had only just been put into use against London? 

Before we had time even to find our own explanation or form our 
own estimates, in spite of our own Press the Russians had started a 
general offensive in the east on the anniversary of our attack on 
them three years before, June aist. Our front was by then back on 
the old Polish eastern frontier. 

In the south Rome was abandoned. 

The optimists among the prisoners, thinking of the First World 
War, said the second would be over in the autumn. But before 
November nth had been March 1918. 

The realists said November 1918 came because of a political 
defeat which had been accepted by our government, whereas this 
time only a military capitulation would be acceptable, and to the 
Allies. The war would go on until the Russians met the Allies in or 
near Berlin. 

In all our doubts at the time I fed that our course was nevertheless 
rigidly determined by the other side. "Unconditional surrender*' 
was what they demanded. That left us no alternative but to go on 
to the bitter end. If the Allies had suggested an alternative had 
they treated with the opposition in 1943 or 1944 . . . then more 
among us would have risked disgrace, torture and death. But the 
feelers put out by our opposition in 1943 were turned down flat by 
the British Government. Only force should decide. 

The prisoners were, of course, much satisfied at the turn of events 
on the wider wheel of fortune. But they still played their luck merrily 
on the little roulette wheel at Colditz. Round and round the circle 
they flipped the ball we waited wide-eyed to see into which of the 
many compartments it would drop. There it was running again on 
June 1 6th, but it came to rest on zero for the prisoners. 

That afternoon the guard under the archway heard a noise 
beneath his feet. At this spot there was a manhole cover. There was 
another one further up the approach yard towards the guardroom 
and a third just outside the courtyard gate. All were in a stretch of 
about fifty yards of cobbles. The guard gave a shout and out came 



the Riot Squad and in due course the Security Officer. "Up with all 
three drain covers" was the order. Altogether we found six tunnellers 
in the drain. Four of them were half-way back to the gate, two of 
them were under the archway drain cover. The diameter of the 
drain was about two feet six inches, and it ran out under the gate 
from the prisoners 9 courtyard. At the point where it passed out of the 
yard there was a grille across the whole width of die pipe but this 
had been sawn through. 

We found the miners trying to dig a tunnel at the archway end, 
where the drain narrowed to a pipe about eighteen inches across. The 
two officers here were knee-deep in the foulest black mud. They had 
been levering away at the stones around the narrower pipe with iron 
bars wrapped in sacking. It was this noise that the sentry had heard. 

Our Paymaster came by at this moment. He was very hostile to all 
prisoners and, as I have already mentioned, he had lost his two sons 
at the front. He could not restrain himself and spat at the two in the 
drain, calling thcTin "stinking swine'*. 

A protest was made officially by the Senior British Officer and in 
the end our officer had to declare that his remarks and behaviour 
were not directed personally at the two tunnellers, but were a 

In the spring of 1 944 some seventy-six British officers escaped from 
the Air Force camp at Sagan. In June a British doctor, Captain 
Henderson, came from that camp to Colditz. 

Shortly afterwards the SBO asked our Kommandant if it were 
true that fifty of these escapers from Sagan had been shot on 
recapture. Had the Wehnnacht changed its attitude to escaping? 
Was it a matter for other than the disciplinary punishment of 
arrest? The SBO also asked if he might send a list of names to Sagan 
so that the prisoners in Colditz might know if any friends of theirs 
had been among those shot. 

All we could say in reply was that we did know of this mass 
escape and we did also know there had been some shootings among 
those who had been recaptured afterwards. We did not know how 
many in all had been "shot while escaping". The OKW, as far as 
we knew, had not given any new instructions as to the treatment of 
escapers on recapture. We did know that about thirty of the Sagan 
group had been brought back and, as far as we knew, were still alive. 

Escaped prisoners picked up by other than Wehnnacht forma- 
tion, such as police, Gestapo, Sicherheitsdienst (Himmler's security 
organization), and so on, were not the responsibility of the regular 
armed forces until returned into their hands. Escapes of PWs had 
increased to such a degree that Himmler had ordered that any 
recaptured PWs were not to be sent back to their camps but were 


to be handed over to the SD. It was as a result of this order that over 
half the members of the mass break from Sagan were executed. 

We sent a list of British names to Sagan, and when it came back a 
number of them were marked with a cross to show they had been 

As things got worse Himmler began taking it out of the most 
helpless of all, the prisoners and the KZ (concentration camp) 
inmates. He announced that he did not propose to over-exert himself 
in protecting bomber crews who were shot down during raids. Those 
descending by parachute were in many cases left to the fury of the 
population. What a change since 1939! Then, British pilots shot 
down in battle were given a proper military funeral. Sometimes 
these ceremonies were broadcast on our radio networks. Even 
Flight-Lieut. Tunstall admitted that during the first six months of 
the war, if he could not find his military objectives he would take 
his bombs back home. Who was the first among us to take the gloves 
off in the aerial war? Each side, of course, accused the other. 

Later in that summer Security Officers from different areas were 
ordered to visit Sagan to study the security methods of that 

I went there myself and was amazed at the simplicity of their 
arrangements. Admittedly the siting of the place made things easy. 
The camp was in a clearing in the woods and built on sandy ground. 
The Kommandant and staff numbered barely thirty. The guard 
company totalled 250 in all. There were at the time no less than 
seven thousand British and American Air Force personnel in the plape. 
At Golditz we had at times as many guards as prisoners ! I noticed 
sourly that discipline on parade was perfect. 

The total number of escape attempts from Sagan was much less 
than from Colditz. Yet we had less than one-twentieth of the 
jiumber of prisoners to control. 

The only chance the prisoners at Sagan had of getting out was by 
tunnelling. The only place where they could safely build tunnels 
was under the barrack stoves. The barrack floors themselves were 
raised off the ground and it was easy to see anything that might be 
going on underneath. But the stoves were built on concrete slabs in 
the ground, which slabs were held up by a four-square brick wall. 
By lifting the stoves and prising up the slab, a perfect entrance hole 
was provided, completely screened from all observation. The bar- 
racks were raised from the ground but no one could see into these 
brick shafts. In fact, here again was an example of the vertical 
approach, provided by ourselves once more, to a horizontal 

That was how the famous Sagan tunnel came to be built. The 
main trouble with tunnelling in Sagan was the provision of fresh air. 


In the camp museum they had several specimens of air-feed 
mechanisms. Football bladders were far too small to be effective. 
Watertight bags of linen, fitted with two-way valves, were mostly used 
to aerate the working faces of their tunnels. The sand made the 
work fairly easy and in the large compounds it was not difficult to 
dispose of the spoil. But these tunnels in sand had to be shored up all 
along with bed-boards and other pieces of timber. 

After the big escape of seventy-six officer prisoners, thestaff at Sagan 
was largely replaced and the camp was wired for sound all round the 
perimeter with microphones to give warning of underground work- 
ings. "Shot while escaping" only once did we make a report in 
these terms from Oflag 40 at Colditz. 

We were playing Skat in Zschadrass on the evening of July 2Oth. 
Suddenly the radio programme broke off to give the news of the 
bomb attack on Hitler. We thought this must be an Allied propa- 
ganda broadcast, but no, the set was correctly tuned and the 
programme continued as usual. At x o'clock in the morning Hitler 
himself came to the microphone and confirmed the news. 

On the 2 ist, the first names of the plotters began to filter through. 
People at all levels started to cover up. Hypocrisy was by now so 
deep-rooted in everyone's behaviour in Germany that the true 
reactions of the people were not to be perceived. 

Among the Colditz staff no one would catch another's eye. It was 
best to keep a straight face over this affair. How would the Armed 
Forces as a whole come out of this plot formed within their ranks? 
The Officer Korps had its answer very shortly. From now on the 
Forces were identified openly with the Party, not merely as their 
own preference had been, with the people. Up to now the Hitler 
salute had been given by German officers only when entering or 
leaving their Mess, or as a form of unofficial salute when not wearing 
their caps. From now on it was to be used officially between our^ 
selves and also as between officers and prisoners. The Wchrmacht 
salute was replaced by the raised arm salute of the Partei. 

We had to put up with a great deal of ridicule in the yard for the 
next day or two after this order was propagated but in the end things 
quietened down and the Nazi salute came to be taken as something 
in no way out of the ordinary. 

On July 24th a parade was held in the town to "Express thanks 
for the safety of our Leader at the hand of Providence." All those 
in the castle who were not on duty had orders to attend. The 
function went off as expected, perhaps with rather more enthusiasm 
than was normal being shown, because people were afraid and did 
not wish to seem lukewarm in their loyalty at that moment. 

Himmler was by now not only head of the State Security Service, 
and head of the SS. He was also head of the Home Army. 


Now he began to roll the heads. Those in the plot and their 
families were liquidated. More distant relations lost their jobs. 
Duesterberg of the Stahlhelm went to Dachau concentration eamp. 
Jmtncr had changed his coat long since and became Hitler's 
Deputy. In Ast. 4 at Dresden, a chilly wind blew several out of the 
door, including one of our own Security Officers who had been 
posted there. 

A Trillion marks were offered for Gordeler's arrest. A Luftwaffe 
telephonist got 800,000 marks for recognizing him, and two others 
got 100,000 each after his capture. 

Having settled the active reactionaries, Himmler again went for 
the old Socialists and Communists, and ordered more of them off to 
concentration camps. They must have felt that with the bomb attack 
on Hitler by Army officers their own time would come soon. The 
movement would spread downward. 

We found a pamphlet near the castle, no doubt from an Allied 
plane, saying that revolution would come but it must come from the 
factories and not from above. There, among the workers, lay the key 
to revolution. Maybe the Allies would have been very glad to see 
Hitler shot, but perhaps they had different views as to whose finger 
was on the trigger? 

But what was the answer for each and every one of us to the 
question, the more immediate one, "What shall I do when . . . they 
arrive? And who will "they* be Americans or Russians?" 

When we felt safe, with the Partei men outside the door, some of 
us did discuss the point what to do if and when, and as, the end 
came. Although with all of us the unspoken hope was, "may the 
Americans get here before the Russians", there were differing 
reactions even to this possibility. 

One said, "1*11 shoot myself and family. But before that I'll go into 
the yard and finish off a few of the prisoners first." 

Another said, "You can do what you like with your family, 
they're your affair, but the prisoners are the responsibility of all of 
us, and what one may do may be avenged upon the whole lot of us 

A third said, "I'd shoot myself if I hadn't got a family." 

A fourth "I'll go as a prisoner. If Colditz is a sample of PW life 
it can't be as bad as all that." 

Yet Doktor Goebbels assured us we must win, therefore we should 
win. "Never were we so near to victory as now. Let us give up space 
to win time." We lived in two worlds of fact, and of illusion. 

On September ist the Kommandant received the War Service 
Cross (First Class), yet on the very next day he was holding a 
conference over measures to be taken when the enemy arrived at 
his gates. 


The British Senior Officer asked if he might take part in these 
discussions, and the Kommandant replied that he had no instruc- 
tions to sit at a round table with the prisoners in his charge in this 
particular matter. Months later it came about that the Komman- 
dant pressingly requested the Senior British Officer's participation 
in discussions on this identical point. 

Himmler's next move was to approve a scheme for the retirement 
of all active offcers over fifty-eight and all Reserve officers over 
fifty-two. They were to be transferred to industry or they were to be 
re-enrolled to work with the Army in civilian capacity. Half the 
Colditz staff would have had to go, but nothing came of this order 
in the end. 

The new head of the prisoner-of-war section at Dresden, after 
the dean-up, was a high SS police officer widely known in 
central Germany as "Bubi". The Partei was digging itself into the 
Wehnnacht older officers were pushed out, younger Party men 
came in. 

More demonstrations took place hi the town on October 4th. Once 
again the order in our Mess was, "All not on duty will attend" 

On the igth, General "Bubi", head of Ast. 4 at Dresden as well, 
came round the castle and showed himself very friendly. The 
Kommandant seemed pleased to have gained his favour. "Bubi" was 
a very useful friend at court, if indeed he were not the court itself! 
On October 2 ist, there it was again, a mass demonstration down in 
the town "All not on duty will attend." 

On the same day came the first secret order for the evacuation 
and break-up of the camp on the eventual day. 

On November I2th the Partei March took place in Munich. This 
time there was no speech at all from the Ftthrer. It was whispered 
abroad that the "home" of the Hitler revolution was becoming the 
"home" of the counter-revolution. On the same day members from 
more age groups were scraped up in Colditz town for the Home 
Guard. Being a question of military service, most obeyed their 
orders and turned up, but for the first time there was a strike among 
the spectators at the call-up ceremony. Practically none of the public 
attended. Of the fifty seats reserved for the relations of those killed 
at the front only ten were occupied. How could one take an oath 
(or even show approval of it by attending this ceremony) to a 
government that had told such lies? And yet some wondered 
the had just started on London. Could they do the trick? Was 
it perhaps better to wait before passing judgement on our Leader? 
Give hi and the secret weapons a final chance? 

What of the attitude of the prisoners by this stage? They were now 
all agreed that our unconditional surrender could be the only end 
to the war. Typically British, they began to fed sympathy for the 


under-dog. I quote from a prisoner's letter home in August 1944: 
"It is no longer fair to organize demonstrations against the Germans 
as things are going now." But the escaping spirit was dying hard, 
in some cases it would not fade at all. And in Colditz the greatest 
escaper of them all found his own end in his undying example* 


The Greatest Escaper 

IF THERE is indeed a Valhalla, for the heroes of whatever nation, 
if the men who go there are men of courage and daring, if their 
determination springs from one true motive alone and. if that motive 
is love of their country then in our own German tradition, Valhalla 
is the resting-place of Lieut. Michael Sinclair. Whatever his 
secondary motives, it was plain to all that, for him, the highest was 
that of service, to regain which in full right and duty Lieut. Sinclair 
felt he must at all costs get back to England by his own efforts. The 
number of his escapes, the distances covered, the variety and 
ingenuity resorted to and displayed, the thoroughness of preparation 
and the exactness of execution, all added up to unparalleled 
accomplishment and example. 

Lieut. Sinclair's first escape was from a camp in north-east 
Germany. It led him through Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Yugo- 
slavia, until he was caught on the Bulgarian frontier. He was then 
transferred to Colditz, escaping for a short time while on the way. 
His third attempt, from Leipzig hospital, ended in Cologne* By then 
he was known to our guard company as the Red Fox. 

Sinclair's fourth attempt ended in south Germany and both at 
Wcinsberg and on the way back, he tried again to get away. 

His seventh attempt, disguised as Franz Josef in October 1943 
nearly came off, and with him would have gone a mass break-out 
in grand style. This was the time he was shot at point-blank range 
and by sheerest luck escaped alive. 

An eighth attempt, over the west terrace at Colditz in January 
1944 one evening, got him as far as the Dutch frontier. 

By the summer of 1944 the war could only go one way, but perhaps 
Sinclair felt that captivity was a disgrace, even though by that time 
it had practically lost its meaning* 

On September 25th the walk was down in the park moving 
around and chatting in groups, in the afternoon sun. The leaves 
were just turning on the trees, preparing once again the finest view 
in Coldit% .when seen from the eastern windows overlooking the 
valley, withltornbeams, beeches and sycamores flaming away up 
through the Tiergarten out of sight to the south-east 

Suddenly, without ^n^ning or any foreknowledge among those 
present, Lieut. Sinclair broke away from a small group walking 
round inside the wire. He sprang acrqp the trip-wire and reached 


the main fence. Up over it he went, his thick gloves helping him to 
grip in spite of the barbed "wire. Down he came on the other side. 

An NCO close by shouted to him to stop. His revolver misfired. 
Sinclair ran forward down the ravine to where 150 yards away the 
stream ran through a grid under the foot of the ten-foot park wall. 
He could not climb this wall. He could not get through the grid. 
What could he have hoped to do? 

Several sentries opened fire. Even then, the shot that killed 
Michael Sinclair was not aimed true. Fate seemed to hold just one 
more chance in store. But just as one year previously a bullet from 
three-foot range had glanced off Sinclair's ribs and out of his body, 
this time the bullet glanced off his elbow and inwards to his heart. 
He died instantaneously "Shot whilst escaping." 

He was doing his duty as he saw it our men were doing theirs. 
There was no dispute this time over the shooting. Sinclair was 
buried in the military cemetery at Colditz with full honours. 

A week or so after Lieut. Sinclair's death, the Senior British 
Officer, Lieut.-Colonel Tod, announced on parade, "It is no longer 
an adventure to get out of this camp. Anyone escaping will get home 
too late to take part in the war anyway. Furthermore I disapprove 
of kicking a man when he's down. There will be no further demon- 
strations on parade. 9 ' 

One line of attack upon us by the prisoners in Colditz, of which I 
strongly disapproved, as already mentioned, was the misuse of the 
medical services which we provided for them. Some escapes out of 
hospitals have been told in their due place, but I will group several 
together now regardless of chronology; it may serve to emphasize 
what I felt to be a grave abuse of humanitarian concessions on 
our part. 

The prisoners made it their business to show how incompetent 
our doctors were and how insufficient were our medical supplies. 
Medical staff among the prisoners were privileged personnel under 
the Geneva Convention and were normally entitled, and in most 
were allowed, to practise among their fellow-countrymen. On 
repeated occasions they requested permission for medical supplies 
to be sent from home where these were not supplied by ourselves 
or by the International Red Cross. I think they would have accused 
us of being inhuman had we refused these medical necessities. What 
were some results of our agreeing to these humanitarian requests? 

In the summer of 1941 we found the following message concealed 
in a parcel of medical supplies addressed to the French captain, 

"I hope you won't need the enclosed [false] papers, but will soon 
be able to get home in a legal way. If necessary I will send you 


1000 francs and 100 Reichsmarks, together with a worker's permit 
valid for France. The papers herewith are quite in order so do not 
worry if you have to travel on your own and not with German 
authority. Don't talk too much while you are travelling. Remember 
that you have worked in Coswig, near Dresden, and that you live at 
Dijon, 12 Rue de la Gare. If you are travelling home on these papers, 
don't stop in Paris. There are always sudden searches in the streets 
and it is the most dangerous place in the whole of occupied France. 
Keep to the line Riesa-I^pag-Erfurt-Kassd-Ciologne-Lifege. I 
take it you have all the civvies you need." 

Soon after this another parcel came from France to this officer, 
and inside a hairbrush we found three ampoules, and a note signed 
apparently by a French doctor stating that Arditti had suffered 
since his sixteenth year from gall bladder trouble. In consequence 
a trip to hospital for Arditti was cancelled. 

Subsequent supplies of medicine from France were then sent for 
testing to Leipzig University, and if found to be genuine were kept 
in our hands for ultimate distribution among the prisoners. 

In spite of this, prisoners were able on various occasions to obtain 
transfer from Colditz for treatment, by simulating the appropriate 
symptoms without help from their friends abroad. 

Gall bladder trouble seemed to be the easiest of all diseases to fake. 
The Polish Lieut. Kroner was having terrible pains that summer, it 
seemed. The Tierarzt was suspicious but finally conceded that the 
symptoms were genuine. His fury at the escape of two previous 
"patients**, Lieuts. Just and Bednarski, in April, had died down 
somewhat. Kroner also went to Konigswartha, where his condition 
gradually improved. So did his escape preparations, and in due 
course he changed his blue and white hospital garb for civilian 
clothes, and disappeared under the comparatively unguarded wire 
all round the place* We never heard of him again after August aoth, 

A little over a week later, a suffering Frenchman escaped from the 
hospital at Schneckwitz. At Mainz the Gestapo took Lieut. Mascret 
out of the Paris train and returned him to Colditz to continue his 
hospital treatment at the hands of his private doctor, the Tierartf. 

The French Lieut. Boucheron had an inflamed appendix. There 
didn't seem to be any doubt about it at all. The Tierarzt sent him 
to hospital at Zcitz. On September 25th, 1941, Boucheron broke 
into the hospital store and exchanged his hospital clothes for civilian 
and left. His appendix went with him, and it sepped he did not 
worry that it might burst. In any case it was stilrall right on the 
night of October 7th when he was caught near Bonn and deposited 
in a Stalag at Arnoldsweiler. They asked us at Colditz to collect 
him, but by the time we got there Boucheron had again been moved* 


He had persuaded the Stalag doctor that his appendicitis was 
extremely serious and he had been transferred to the hospital at 
Munster-Eifel. From there he had again got away, appendix and 
all, and eventually arrived safely home in France. 

"That appendix would have made interesting medical history/ 5 
observed the Tierarzt sarcastically when our party came back from 
the Rhindand empty-handed. 

Four French officers were sent by the Tierarzt to the hospital 
attached to Oflag 4!}, Elsterhorst. As this was part of a PW camp 
for French officers, the surveillance was fairly strict and none of the 
four had a chance of escaping. In due course, on October isth, 
1941, they set out to return to Colditz. The first part of this journey 
was on foot for a mile or so through the woods. They were, of 
course, under guard, but being hospital cases the guards pre- 
sumably thought there would be no question of their being fit 
enough to escape. 

At a given signal, while still in the woods, all four ran in different 
directions, and all four succeeded in getting clear away. Of the four 
Charvet got to Kassel where he took a ticket to Aachen, but 
unfortunately changed there on to the wrong train and came back 
to Dtisseldorf. Here by merest chance he met up with another one 
of the four, Levy, and the two travelled together back to Aachen 
and spent the night there in a wood. On the morning of the i8th 
they took a tram into the town, but unfortunately were caught. They 
said they were French other ranks and so were sent to the Stalag 
at Arnoldsweiler where they stayed for three weeks. During this 
time they told differing stories as to their identities, but in the end 
they let it be known as certain that they came from Oschatz in East 
Germany. On their way back there, Charvet jumped out of the 
train, but was seen and retaken at Helmstett. He then admitted 
that he was an officer prisoner and came from Colditz, and we 
collected him from a camp at Fallingbostd. He returned to Colditz 
without any further trouble, and when he got back there he found 
that Levy had already been caught and brought back as well. 

Lieuts. Navdet and Odry, the other two who had broken away 
from the guards on leaving Elsterhorst, eventually arrived safely 
home in France. 

In October 1941 the French were playing stoolball a kind of 
Rugby handball invented by the British in the yard. The ground 
was cobblestones and very dangerous for this kind of play. Lieut* 
Diedlcr broke a bone in his leg and was sent again to Elsterhorst for 
treatment. On the sand of the month, however, when his leg was 
nearly healed, he got into the hospital garage, and climbed into the 
boot of a car there. He was just taking a chance. He spent the whole 
night in the back of the car. Next morning someone took it out on 


to the road, and after a short time the car stopped. Diedler crept 
quietly out of the boot, but unfortunately he was seen and driven 
back smartly to Elsterhorst and so eventually back to Colditz. 

April 1942. Three French officers went for medical attention to 
Leipzig. On Colditz station Lieut. Manheimer tried to jump across 
the line and put an approaching train between himself and his 
guards. He fell on the line itself and was dragged clear just in time. 
We wondered perhaps if he had had a brainstorm and was attempt- 
ing suicide. 

June 2Oth, 1942. It was the anniversary of our attack on Russia 
the year previously. The weather was fine. The evening was one of 
the longest of the year. 

The prisoners started throwing water at each other from their 
windows for some reason unknown. Soon a great water battle 
started. Water bombs fell from the windows, buckets of water were 
slung around in the yard. Gradually a kind of hysteria built up. 
We were the ones to provide the climax. The Duty Officer received 
reports that the prisoners were getting rather disorderly. He went 
into the yard and ordered the prisoners back into their quarters. 
They ignored him. He turned out the guard. The prisoners moved 
off up the corner staircases shouting and catcalling. When they got 
up to their quarters, water bombs began to fall in our ranks. Some- 
one in the French quarters began yelling abuse out of the window. 
The Duty Officer lost his temper and fired a shot from his revolver. 
The bullet struck a French officer Lieut. Fahy in a room on the 
first floor where he had been quietly reading a book all this while. 
That evening we sent him to Bad Lausick hospital, but his arm never 
healed properly, for a nerve was cut. 

But one of the great lessons that all the prisoners learnt in Colditz 
was, that there was no situation, however unpleasant it might look at 
first sight, from which some profit could not be obtained, and Fahy*s 
case was a good example of this. 

Nearly twelve months later, in the spring of 1943, he contracted 
scarlet fever and went to Hohenstein-Ernstthal. For a long time he 
had been hoping for repatriation because of the shooting and the 
partial loss of the use of his arm. This repatriation did not seem to be 
going to materialize and when Fahy recovered from his scarlet fever, 
he found himself ordered back to Colditz. So he left the hospital that 
afternoon in broad daylight on foot and headed for home. He was 
picked up in the evening at Kaufungen and taken to Hartmanns- 
dorf, from where we collected him. Fahy had a first-class faked pass 
on him when taken, which we only just prevented him chewing up 
and swallowing. 

Another hospital escape in June 1942 was successful. The incident 
really started back in April, when Lieut. Bouillez was sent to 


Lorrach in Baden, for a court-martial. He knew the district well and 
he knew the Swiss frontier was fairly close. 

He jumped out of the train on the way to the toilet. The train 
was immediately stopped, and Bouillez was picked up with head and 
arm injuries. At the court-martial he was acquitted and returned to 
Colditz. Later he was sent to hospital, from which he successfully 
escaped to France. 

One last successful escape under false colours was that of Lieut. 
Darthenay, again from the military hospital at Hohenstein- 

I would only comment in all this that no British or Dutch officers 
appear on my list of escapers from hospital, though Lieut. Michael 
Sinclair had attempted to get away when he was sent to Leipzig 
for sinus treatment. 


The Fading Light 

CONDITIONS at the end of 1944 were getting steadily worse* In 
Oflag 40, Colditz, we reached the lowest level ever in food supplies 
for the prisoners. A bare 1,300 calories a day was the best we could 
scrape up after the New Year. Fuel was nearly gone. We were 
reduced to allowing officers out in the woods on parole and under 
guard to collect branches for their own fires. No more parcels came 
from the International Red Gross because the railway to Switzerland 
was cut. The prisoners ate up most of their last food stocks at 
Christmas, and their own internal market prices rose to fantastic 
heights cigarettes were 10 per 100, while chocolate and raisins 
were proportionately high. A pound of flour obtained on the black 
(German !) market was priced at i o sterling. 

The meal programmes for the week showed little more than bread, 
potatoes and cabbage or swede soup. There was no jam to be had 
but we did manage to get hold of some sugar-beet syrup in barrels. 
We made some of this, too, for ourselves, steaming the roots in the 
big kitchen boilers. 

Morale among our people was reduced to mere stoicism. 
Thousands were buried every day under the bombed ruins of their 
houses. The survivors lived as they might through that dreadful 
winter. Worst of all was the misery of the endless trek of hundreds 
of thousands of refugees from East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania and 
Transylvania, fleeing before the Soviets. 

The Party machine ground out just the one theme "Time, we 
must gain time. Hold on and we shall win." But how? That was the 
question. V.i and V.2, our only possible hopes, were having no re<al 
effect. We were promised V-3, V-4, and so on. 

Someone that winter brought a rumour in to Colditz, which we, 
anxious though we were to snatch at any straw, discredited as too 
fantastic for belief. It was the hint of the atomic bomb. This was too 
much for any of us to believe. Not even the Party men in the Mess 
would credit the mere thought of putting into effect atomic destruc- 
tion as a weapon of war. The propaganda men must be raving! It 
was just a story to save their skins for a little while longer. 

Every day we read in the papers or heard on the radio that men 
and women had been shot for lowering the national morale with 
defeatist talk. The new propaganda line reported Germans found 
dead in the already occupied areas, with notes on them "Killed 



by the avengers of the German honour." We could hardly blame the 
French in Colditz, then, for not having collaborated with us earlier. 
Would they not have reason to fear similar treatment on their own 
return home, at the hands of the "avengers of the honour of France" ? 

Other propaganda lines at this time ran as follows, "What does not 
break us makes us stronger." "The worse things seem to be, the 
greater our confidence in the ultimate victory." Hitler's New Year 
speech was simply a call to fight on in whatever circumstances might 

In Colditz, by the end of 1944, the guard companies were formed 
almost exclusively from old men between the ages of fifty and sixty- 
five. These had all gone through one world war already, and had 
known two political revolutions. They had served the Kaiser, the 
Weimar Republic, and Hitler's Third Reich. Small wonder if in 
due course they were to accept without too much question the 
Hammer and Sickle as their emblem. What could they do? 

Our Christinas celebrations for that last winter feast of the war 
were, strangely enough, a little more worthwhile than the year 
previously. For one thing this Christmas could only be the last. It 
was the sixth Christmas of the war. Now that we were up against the 
abyss perhaps our ignorance of the future gave us all just that much 
more momentary happiness. It must all soon be over, and things 
could not get worse than they were. 

I remember we even had goose for our Christmas dinner. The 
camp poultry stock under my care had flourished well and we 
decided to eat our way through what there was. We had bred 
rabbits, hens, ducks and geese, and we finished the ducks off at 
New Year. After that, at midnight, we went out on to the bridge 
and sang the New Year in with our German hymn, "Wir treten &m 
Beteny vor Gott dem Gerechten", and "Now thank we all our God". 
I think with most of us tension was relaxed. 'We were beyond all 
further anxiety. At 7 o'clock that evening the sirens had given us the 
distant warning of a raid on Berlin. 

In the camp there was again a kind of armistice from December 
24th to January 2nd. The prisoners were also eating up their stocks. 
I remember only one incident of note Lieut. Chaloupka running 
around the yard three times stark naked on Christinas Eve, having 
lost his bet that the war would be over by then. The usual tumult 
in the yard was missing, even on New Year's Eve, perhaps for one 
or other or both of two reasons, (a) food was going to be short, (b) the 
prisoners were asking themselves are we all going to be treated as 
hostages like the Prominente? 

On January 4th, 1945, Flight-Lieut. Tunstall came up once again 
for a court-martial in Leipzig was it his fourth, or fifth? I had lost 
count He was charged with referring to "b Germans". His 


defence lawyer pointed out that the offending word was a botanical 
or zoological expression for a cross as between species. But the Court 
accepted the applied meaning in popular speech, and Tunstall got 
three months in gaol, less his six weeks in cells while awaiting trial. 
The war ended before the balance of his sentence could be 
carried out. 

On January gth, the American Captain Schaefer was court- 
martialled at Gneseru He had been in Colditz since December 28th 
and was charged with obstructing a German NCO in another camp 
and disobeying his orders. The sentence was death. We put Schaefer 
in solitary confinement when he came back. Hitler himself had been 
advised of the affair, as head of the Holding State, but in the 
confusion of the last two months of the war appeals to the different 
Swiss and German authorities never got disposed of, and Schaefer 

In the middle of January we were advised of the arrival of five 
French generals from Oflag 4A, Konigstein Generals Flavigny, 
Buisson, Boisse, Daine and Mesny. They travelled to Colditz in 
separate vehicles, and the first four arrived safely. 

We waited a long time for the last car, but in the end a telegram 
came instead from Dresden, "General Mesny has been shot on the 
autobahn while attempting to escape.** As he had said nothing 
whatever to any of the others about any intention of escaping 
General Flavigny spoke most harshly of his murder.* 

The anniversary of the Party take-over came round again on 
January 3Oth. It hardly seemed the moment for celebration. 

At the beginning of February we were warned of the transfer to 
us from Warsaw of General B6r Komorowski and his staff of about 
a dozen. These were the men who had planned and fought the 
Warsaw rising. They arrived in Colditz on February 5th an 
impressive band of men with heroism and tragedy behind them. 
The rising had not been supported in any way by the Soviets who 
were the Allies closest to hand. These had simply waited inactive 
on the east bank of the Vistula while our SS slowly broke up the 
Polish resistance and destroyed whole quarters of the city. B6r 
admitted to me his hatred of all things German, but his greater 
hatred of all things Soviet. "Even if you occupy our country for 
twenty years, both of you," he said, "my people will remain Polish, 
the race that they are born of." That was the spirit which had helped 
General B6r to raise, equip and organize his Home Army of two 
hundred and fifty thousand men under the noses of our own 

* Over fourteen years later Polizeigeneral Panzinger was charged -with the shoot- 
ing of General Mesny, "in reprisal". When the police went to arrest him in 
Munich, he poisoned himself. An SS officer \vasalso charged in Essen a few months 
before, with being an accomplice in the affair. 


occupation forces and police. And when this rising was broken and 
he surrendered, he obtained for his men the protection of the 
Geneva Convention. We agreed to treat them as prisoners-of-war, 
and not as partisans. It seemed a long way back to the Berlin 
Olympic Games of 1936, when General B6r, on behalf of the Polish 
riding team, received a prize for horsemanship out of the hands of 
Hitler himself. 

On February gth, the SBO, Lieut.-Colonel Tod, asked for a 
meeting with the Kommandant to discuss the procedure and steps 
to be taken on the approach of the Americans. The Kommandant 
again replied that he had no instructions on the point. 

On the 1 5th of the month three Royal Air Force officers came in. 
Their camp at Sagan had been evacuated in the face of the 
advancing Russians, and these three had got away. They were 
recaptured and dumped on us. We passed them on to Nuremberg. 
A few days later the Swiss turned up again, for the last time. They 
held a small tea party in a cate in the woods for some of the 
Prominente and others, but not including General B6r or his group. 
Their Herr Denzler appeared to be on a round of leave-taking. His 
OKW escort told us that these farewell parties were becoming 
quite the rule. 

Between February i4th and i6th there were three very heavy 
air raids, two British raids in one night and an American raid by 
day, on Dresden a city which up to this time had been untouched 
by bombing. The wife of the Kommandant, who was a refugee from 
Silesia, was at the time staying in the city with her baby in the house 
of our Paymaster. The Paymaster went off to help as best he could 
and was caught in the second raid and barely got to his home 
through the fire and destruction. He came back to Golditz and next 
morning a young paymaster of his staff went to Dresden with a 
lorry, got through, found the women and the baby safe and brought 
them back to the castle. 

My clerk asked for leave likewise to go to Dresden to help his 
family. When he got home he found the house burnt out and his 
family all dead, along with other unidentifiable bodies in the cellar. 
He told me that in the old market square in Dresden corpses had 
been piled up high and burnt with flamethrowers. The inner part 
of the city was completely destroyed, and to prevent the spread of 
disease it was barred off even to those who had property and 
relations there. Some of the approach streets were actually walled 
up. Many officers of the Army District Command No. 4 in Dresden 
were killed along with their families in these raids. People in the city 
were quite demoralized by these massive attacks, even to the point 
of openly mocking at officers in the street that they should still wear 
Hitler's uniform. 


At the time of the raid Dresden was full of refugee treks from the 
east, convoys of horse-drawn wagons making their way to some 
hoped-for safety in Central Germany and away from the Russians. 
For them there was no shelter. All the parks and avenues were full. 
There was nowhere for them to go. The fire bombs set the asphalt 
of the roads afire and they burnt to death where they stood. The 
estimate of deaths in this air raid is between 100,000 and 300,000 
at least double that at Hiroshima. 

On February 24th Hitler again spoke to the nation. "Let there 
be no doubt about it," he said, "National Socialist Germany will 
fight this war until the scale of history is turned, as it will be, in this 
very year. No power on earth shall weaken us. This Jewish-Bolshevik 
world destruction, together with its West European and American 
supporters, can be met with only one reply, the utmost of fanaticism, 
the most resolute of determination and the very last of our strength 
all this we must throw into the scale in one final effort such as God in 
His mercy will grant to any human being who draws upon his 
final resources to save his life in the darkest hour." And he reminded 
his hearers with the following, "Party comrades twenty-five years 
ago I pronounced the victory of the Movement. Today I prophesy, 
inspired by my belief in our people, that in the end Germany will 
win through." 

On February 26th, Oflag 4!), Elsterhorst, about sixty miles 
north-east of Colditz, was evacuated of its 5,000 French officer 
prisoners. They descended upon Colditz town and camp in a kind of 
barbarian horde. How they lived during the several days* march I 
did not find out. I had enough difficulty trying to fit 1,500 of them, 
as ordered, into Colditz Castle before even attempting to get some- 
thing for them to eat. 

They came like any other refugees, carrying their precious 
belongings on their back, pushing them in wheelbarrows, in peram- 
bulators, in home-made carts called "chariots" dragging small 
trolleys along behind them, through the frozen mud, laden, you 
might think, with the barest necessities? Far from it! We collected 
two radio sets, and a nice collection of tools during our very cursory 
search at the Colditz gate, and I must say I admired the devotion 
to entomology of the officer whose collection of mounted moths and 
butterflies I allowed through. We quartered these unexpected and 
rather unwelcome guests wherever we had floor space in the castle 
on heaps of loose straw all over the chapel floor and up in its galleries 
as well. The now overcrowded "local inhabitants" we compressed 
into the smallest possible space in the Cellar House on the west side 
of their yard, and somehow we got the whole of the 1,500 extra 
prisoners under some roof and shelter. 


To the general delight (ours included), a huge lorry-load of food 
arrived one evening food parcels sent by the International Red 
Cross by road as the railway service had broken down. The Danish 
doctor in charge said he had come from Hamburg with his load and 
had orders to deliver it to the prisoners of Oflag 4<3. We asked if the 
recently arrived prisoners from 40 were to share in this manna from 
Heaven? The Dane pondered a while and then fell back on the 
letter of his orders the food was for the prisoners in 40 Colditz. 
The question of sharing this windfall with their French comrades 
was apparently hotly debated in the British quarters. In the end it 
was left to individual Messes to "distribute*' by invitation to the 
French such of their share of the food parcels as they wished. 

After a couple of dreadful weeks with 2,000 near-starving men on 
our hands, 500 of the French were moved on further to Zeithain. 
Most of their kit went by lorry, this transport fleet being just a 
collection of wrecks which we scraped up and strung together for 
the occasion. They were driven by wood gas, and we had the greatest 
difficulty in even starting them up. We had to push them downhill 
and perhaps back up hill again if they missed their gears and didn't 
start the first time and then downhill again once more to get them 
going. The prisoners suggested that they would get there just as 
fast if they towed these vehicles ! 

Food and fuel supplies decreased steadily during February. 
Offices and barracks were often no longer heated at all. In Colditz 
this was the case after March ist. The baker supplied bread to the 
camp only when we provided the fuel for his ovens. Army rations 
went down again. Members of our own guard company frequently 
complained that they were always hungry. The prisoners made 
themselves, where possible, extra soup from potato peelings and 
swede trimmings scraped up sometimes from the floor of the kitchen. 
Our Press took up the challenge of Yalta "worse than "Wilson 
worse than Versailles'* "unconditional surrender means mass 
deportations, hunger and slavery". They might be right but so 

' Our deputy Kommandant took over command of an anti-tank 
unit "on the East Front" for the protection of Dresden. He came to 
Colditz now and again to visit his family in the castle. "Defeat?" 
he said, "there is no question whatsoever of it.'* Blindly confident 
he was to the end. Yet this front where he was now posted, which for 
so long had been hundreds and even thousands of kilometres away 
to the east, was now almost on our own doorstep. 

At the beginning of March we had an evening of Skat with friends 
down in the town. There were seven evacuees from Silesia besides 
the nine people already living in the house. The sirens were on and 
off all evening flares hung over Leipzig we heard the planes, the 


crash of the bombs. "How can we possibly win this war?" some of us 
asked openly. A woman among the refugees asked, "Is that the best 
that you Army people can say at this moment?" We replied, "Why 
should we dope ourselves any more with illusions?" 

In the middle of the month another public "day of rejoicing" 
came around again Armed Forces Day. This time we did not 
allow the public to visit our "escape museum" as they had done in 
previous years, nor did we serve up in the usual way to visitors 
"pea soup and bacon" out of our field kitchen. Such luxuries were 
no longer to be had, and furthermore I doubt if we could have 
scraped up enough fuel other than by burning the chairs and tables, 
to light up the "goulash Kanone" (kitchen artillery), even if the 
food had been available ! 

On this occasion was held the last ceremony, as we all knew it 
must be, for the garrison of the castle as a military unit. We had the 
usual speeches. The Kommandant gave one last Sieg heil for the 
Fiihrer. We sang for the last time together "Deutschland fiber dies" 
and the Horst Wessel song. I think for everyone present on that 
occasion something had broken, were it a kind of religious belief for 
some, or just a hope for others. For some of us it was as though a 
shabby adversary had collapsed, his bubble of pride pricked for good 
and all, and we found no triumph in his fall. Some of us saw this 
adversary as a leader who had failed. Some perhaps saw this adver- 
sary in themselves. The fall of a leader could not fail to bring misery 
and suffering upon everyone, from his fanatical adherents, through 
his tolerant collaborators, to the neutral sceptics, and so on right 
on down to include even non-political soldiers and civilians. The 
extent of this ruin could not possibly be measured by anyone 
present at that last celebration in honour of the Wehrmacht, but 
we all were aware that the future was black and held nothing but 
disaster for each and every one of us. 

Down in the town the Party again mustered a few faithfuls from 
its ranks and from loyal members of the boys' and girls' organiza- 

Chaos on roads and railways affected everyone but Party 
infiltration at all levels and denunciations by spit&l$ (stooges) kept 
the people quiet To the very end the illusion of unity remained, as 
between Government and governed, though datty every individual 
could see and hear and fed the contrast between the facts around 
him and the assertions of our propaganda. 

Our Foreign Office at this time opened its eyes a little wider than 
usual and began to peer into the foture. It held, at last, that the 
moment might well have come to profit by possible contacts among 
the prisoners. Officials were sent down to sound the senior French 
and British officers in Colditz. Private conversations were held 


between them. I don't know if anything ever came of these meetings 
it seemed a little late in the day to resort to rapprochement 
measures, however insignificant. The French general, Flavigny, 
indeed, with General Mesny's death still in his mind, refused even a 
formal meeting with the official to whom he was invited to speak. 
He was therefore sent back to Oflag 4A, Konigstein, a few days 
afterwards but (and I say it thankfully) arrived safely, contrary 
to the general expectation that he, too, would be announced by 
telegram as having been "shot'* on the way, "while attempting 
to escape". 

One small incident to illustrate the chaos that was boiling up 
around us. One evening the Biirgermeister from a neighbouring 
village sent us a small party of all sorts Russians, French, Yugo- 
slavs, and two Negroes who had belonged to working parties in 
what had become a forward area to the east. They had simply set 
off together towards the west like so many hundreds and thousands of 
others. Tired of wangling food, they had taken to stealing. The 
Bttrgermeister had rounded them up at the point of a gun and passed 
them on to us as the nearest still-functioning military organization. 

I put these forty odd refugees, call them what you like, into a 
spare building we had at the back of the castle and got them such 
food as I could scrape together in our mess and kitchen. They 
literally fell on the stuff (a fair description) when my men brought 
it in, with the result that half of them got nothing at all. So I col- 
lected some bread and jam, one slice each, then showed them in at 
the point of my revolver, and doled out the food to them one by one. 
I could do that with forty men, but if the 2,000 others in the castle 
ever got to that stage I wondered if I would even try. 

Government instructions on food rationing, poultry-keeping, 
rabbit-keeping, allotments and so on poured out daily. All were 
utterly impossible to follow and as was to be expected all ended with 
threats of heavy prison sentences or death. 

I went home for Easter and had a lucky escape in an air raid. 
The bomb fell about twenty yards from my house while we were in 
the air-raid shelter. It was the afternoon of March 3ist, Easter 
Saturday. I spent the rest of my leave resetting panes of glass or 
tacking up windows with cardboard in my own and my neighbours' 
houses. On April 4th I returned to Colditz. 


The Highlights Go 

THE SMALL group of prisoners known as Prominente in Colditz grew 
that last winter of the war from three to twenty in number. We never 
discovered exactly who it was among Hitler's entourage who was 
looking for a likely swap in his own personal interests, should things 
ever fine down at the end of an unsuccessful war to the point of 
horse-trading in hostages. However, since it was in 1941 that the 
first Prominente was so graded, someone must have been looking a 
very long way ahead indeed. 

In November 1944, the three Prominente Romilly, Alexander and 
Hopetoun, were joined by three more Captain Earl Haig, Lieut. 
Viscount Lascdles and Captain the Master of Elphinstone. It will 
be recalled that the majority of the 1940 prisoners were provided by 
the old 5 ist Highland Division from whose ranks most of our 
Prominente came. Shortly afterwards a Lieut, de Hamd, who like 
Romilly was also related to Sir Winston Churchill, made things a 
little more uncomfortable in the now cramped Prominente quarters. 
( A last-minute shuffle through Debrett having failed to turn up 
any more really big social guns in our hands, Berlin played a long 
shot with the son of the American Ambassador in London, and 
Lieut. John Winant got to Colditz a few days before his countrymen 
arrived to relieve the castle. He spent all his short time with us 
working out an arrest sentence in the cells. He was, of course, not 
present when the Americans arrived, having been removed with the 
other Prominente forty-eight hours earlier. We concluded that it was 
less the persons concerned than their important connections that 
made up their exchange value. What we should have really liked to 
discover was who was going to be offered for whom in the final 
Bunker in Berlin or the Southern Redoubt. Who, or how many, 
would be suggested in exchange for the Ffihrer for Himmler and 
so on? As things turned out no such bargain ever got into the Peace 
Treaty. For one thing there was no Peace Treaty, or indeed any 
terms of surrender. For another, the Prominente had left Colditz 
before the castle was relieved, and such was the confusion in South 
Germany that they eventually reached the American lines without 

General B6r KomorowsH and his staff were classed as Prominente 
for more obvious reasons, but having regard to the fate of that other 
group of Polish Staff officers who went to Moscow about this time 
and were held there by the Soviet in spite of Allied objections, I do 



not think the exchange value of our own Polish group would have 
been very high. 

On April 1 1 th a secret order came from Glauchau, now the seat 
of the Army Command Area, that on receipt of the code word 
"Heidenroslein", the Prominente were to be removed to Oflag 4A, 
K6nigstein, about fifty miles from Colditz. Two coaches were sent 
to us and made ready for the transport of the group. They were 
parked in the German yard, for all the prisoners to see and speculate 

Thefollowing day between 5 and 6 p.m., although telephonic com- 
munication was often broken, the code word came through, with 
details that the move was to be made within two hours of its receipt. 

The Konimandant discussed this point with myself. He and I 
were the persons to suffer most if anything went wrong with this 
move. I suppose we could have ignored the instructions altogether. 
The Americans were in Halle, only fifty miles away to the west. 
We realized that if we went straight in and told the Prominent* to 
pack up and be away in half an hour's time they would simply 
disappear into some hole, or disguise themselves as any others of the 
2,000 British or French officers. In those circumstances we should 
never catch them at all, even inside the castle, without possible 
bloodshed. Two thousand men can be very obstructive, while 
tension by then was very high indeed. 

It did not occur to anyone on our side to point out that if this were 
the sequence of events nobody could blame us in that case for failing 
to carry out this transfer. If we stuck to the "two-hour" ruling, the 
operation could not but fail. And then what a visit perhaps from 
an SS detachment? Shooting? The Prominente were too hot for us to 
hold. At all costs we must take this chance of getting them off our 

We therefore said nothing until after the last roll-call that evening. 
By 10 o'clock the yard was dear and all the prisoners were locked in 
their quarters or in the chapel. The Prominente had been locked in 
since 7.30 as usual, all but Captain the Earl of Hopetoun who was ill 
in the hospital ward. 

Not until late in the evening, therefore, did we inform the Prom- 
inente and the SBO of the intended move. Lieut-Colonel Tod and 
Brigadier Davies requested to see the Kommandant immediately. 

At this subsequent interview they demanded that the Komman- 
dant ignore the order to move the Prominente since with the movement 
of the front there was no longer sure contact with Glauchau, where 
our next superiors were. He could claim the right to act indepen- 
dently in view of the altered, and hourly altering, situation. 

It would be madness, they said, to send out two bus-loads of 
prisoners through an ever-narrowing corridor between American 


and Russian forces, exposing them to certain risk of death or injury 
at the hands of low-flying aircraft strafing the roads. The Kom- 
mandant replied that he would stick to his orders. In any case the 
journey was to be made at night. 

"That's even more dangerous," said the British. "People will 
just snipe at suspected unauthorized transport before you have time 
to establish yourselves.'* 

But the Kommandant stuck to his orders and insisted that the 
move should and would take place by night, and that night. Then 
arose a further point. We had been forbidden to indicate the destina- 
tion of the party, and the British in reply told us that the Kom- 
mandant and I (as Security Officer) would answer to the Allies 
with our heads should any of the Prominente be shot as hostages by 
any subsequent unit, even though they had by then passed out of 
our hands. The Kommandant replied they were being moved on 
orders to another prisoner-of-war camp further to the south of the 
approaching lines of the east-west advance. He added that Golditz 
was responsible for the move to this other camp, and the party 
would be accompanied by his deputy and by his Security Officer 
(myself). He further agreed that I should return to Colditz with a 
letter signed by the Prominente announcing their safe arrival at 
wherever it might be. The discussion ended. 

As was to be expected, the amount of luggage the Prominente took 
with them was colossal. The Polish group had brought its own 
orderlies from Warsaw, and the British now demanded some of their 
own men. Eight officers, they said, were, under German military 
law, entitled to at least two orderlies. I agreed with this, and their 
Orderly Officer was instructed to find two other ranks. He climbed 
to the top floor of the British quarters in the Cellar House, where the 
orderlies, too, had been packed in on the arrival en masse of the 
French from Elsterhorst. 

In due course he came down again to his side of the locked 
staircase door and I let out to my surprise two New Zealand troops, 
Maoris, who had volunteered to take this trip with their officers 
into the unknown. 

About midnight the buses, laden to the roof with kit and containers 
of all kinds, passed over the castle bridge and checked out of the 
Schloss en route for Dresden. 

The leading driver knew the district and we made good time, 
until we had a flat tyre. Thank God there was a spare. My head was 
a target from both sides in this affair, from my own and the Allies. 
If the Prominente escaped Hitler would get me and my family too. 
If the Prominente-wtre killed, even accidentally, no one would believe 
me, nothing could probably ever be proved, and the Allies would 
e off as responsible for their deaths. 


I prayed that Dresden might be spared further raids at least for 
that one night. 

As we drove through in the early dawn the city looked a ghastly 
sight. Not many of the Prominente, except of course the Polish party, 
had seen a major city bombed and burnt out. I was past com- 
menting. We all had one thought in our mind to get to Konigstein 
and out of the battle area. Most of the villages we passed were forti- 
fied to some extent with primitive tank traps. We argued our way 
through them, fortunately well supplied with genuine papers. On 
we went through Pirna and so, at 8 a.m., up we came to the plateau 
at Konigstein which I had not seen since nearly three years pre- 
viously, when I visited the camp after General Giraud's escape. The 
Kommandant at Konigstein greeted us with the news of the death 
of the American President Roosevelt. My mind flashed back to the 
death of Elizabeth of Russia, which saved Frederick the Great at the 
last minute during his almost disastrous struggles to establish Prussia 
against the Russians, Austrians and French in the eighteenth 
century. Was history going to repeat itself in our favour? 

I handed over the party and all the papers and got a notice of safe 
arrival to be delivered back to the Senior British Officer in Colditz. 
The buses unfortunately could take us back only as far as Pirna 
before they went off on some other assignment. From there we got a 
train to Meissen, and there we stopped. 

After several hours the local Commanding Officer ordered all 
military personnel at the station to fall in for the defence of the town. 
We were allowed through, however,, on to the platform and into a 
departing train since our papers showed that our journey was taken 
on secret instructions of the OKW. The train took us as far as 
Tanndorf, and at about i a.m. after an hour's marching we got 
back to Colditz and reported the successful completion of the 
operation. We also handed over the "safe arrival" chit to the 
Senior British Officer. 

The next day the British put up a plan to get the Prominente back 
into Colditz from K6nigstein. We said this was quite impossible. 
We could hear artillery and tank fire to the west, and no village, 
we were quite certain, would now let anything through its tank traps. 
The plan was dropped, and the curtain, too, was soon to fall. 

During Saturday, April 141*1, the gunfire from the west slowly 
moved towards Colditz. We had had a visit a day or two before from 
the Commanding Officer of what was left of an infantry regiment 
in our immediate neighbourhood. If he had orders to make a stand 
at our river bridge he would need all the men and munitions that we 
could muster, and demanded to know what we had. 

The Kommandant gave him the figures. We had 200 men between 


the ages of fifty and sixty-five, armed partly with German and partly 
with French rifles, with fifteen rounds of ammunition per head. We 
also had ten machine-guns of four different makes and calibres, 
with 3,000 rounds each. In addition we had a few hand-grenades. 
If our guard company went into action, it was a fair guess that the 
2,ooo-odd officers and men, prisoners in the castle, would also join 
in somehow. 

Would it not be best for us to neutralize this last threat, with our 
aoo-strong guard company? The Hauptmann agreed. He insisted, 
however, that no white flags were to be raised on the castle, other- 
wise he would shoot the place up. Still in search of reinforcements 
he turned to the Partei Kreisleiter, who mustered his Volksturm 
Battalion. These had enough rifles for barely one in ten, plus a few 
bazookas. The Kreisleiter set up some sort of a barricade for the 
defence (?) of the town out of a few carts and rolls of barbed 
wire at the far end of the Mulde bridge, an idea no doubt from 
Napoleonic days, the last occasion when war had come to 

I saw no sign of any troop concentrations, artillery, HQ, posts 
or supply units at all on our side of the river. The situation was 
obviously hopeless. 

During the morning Generalkommando, Glauchau, late General- 
kommando, Dresden, phoned through the code letters "ZR". This 
meant "ZerstorungRaQmung" (destroy evacuate). All papers 
were to be burnt, all stores to be distributed or destroyed, our warn- 
ing systems to be broken up, and so on. Furthermore, we were to 
evacuate the camp of all prisoners and move off "to the jtast" using 
such transport as we still had at our own disposal, namely, one 
antique motor vehicle, barely working, and two horse-drawn carts. 

The Kommandant passed these orders on to us and informed the 
SBO. Colonel Tod refused flatly to allow his officers to leave the 
Schloss. The Kommandant phoned this refusal back to Glauchan, 
at the same time saying that he did not intend to carry out the 
evacuation order by force. Glauchau insisted, but refused point- 
blank to accept the consequences of any such attempt to enforce its 
orders. The Kommandant declined responsibility. Glauchau 
eventually allowed the castle to be surrendered at discretion to the 
Americans when they should come. At the same time they insisted 
that the British Senior Officer accept responsibility for any injuries 
suffered in possible American shelling or bombing of the castle, 
since he had refused to take his men away when the opportunity 
was offered. Colonel Tod accepted these conditions, and Glauchau 
hung up on us for the last time. 

We breathed quietly with relief. First of all we should never have 
got the prisoners out of the castle, and secondly no one relished the 


prospect, even if we had got them out, of trying to keep them 
together on a trek "towards the east" in the path of the advancing 
Russians, then just the other side of Dresden. 

My next job as Security Officer was to burn all papers. I took five 
men and stoked up the fires in the boiler-house and began to work. 
All offices in the camp then produced mountains upon mountains of 
paper nearly five years' stock of what you call "bumf", and the 
work began. Around about tea-time I went to see how things were 
going. Nothing was going. The men in fact had gone! and the 
furnace was out, too, stuffed solid with files. The boiler-room itself 
was piled half-way to the roof with masses of paper and cardboard. 
Have you ever tried burning files in quantity or even just a few 
magazines? I found some more men and started again. We got 
through the job by midnight. 

Administration had the most colossal amount of paper like all 
their kind the world over. But that was not all. They turned out 
secret hoards of things that we, clever enough at discovering 
prisoners 9 hides, had never even suspected in our own quarters 
heaps of real leather soles, real coffee, real soap, sugar, and so on 
things that we hadn't even seen for goodness knows how long. But 
there was no alcohol of any kind, I remember. We shared out the 
food. We gave a couple of carts to their drivers, but bicycles, 
blankets and other stores were left where they lay, instead of being 
distributed to the townspeople as might have been done. 

My contribution to the funeral pyre in the boiler-house was also 
considerable. Secret, most secret, top secret out came the files in 
dozens. "Not to be passed on without an officer's receipt." That was 
the note on top of the heaps of Japan paper with Hitler's speeches in 
miniature print from the Government stationery office. This was 
the stuff that we had to send out to our prisoners in other parts of the 
world, in operation "Ekkehard". I remember reading through one 
sheet before I consigned it to the flames, "The Soviets will not take 
one square foot of East Prussian territory" and here they were, 
twenty miles east of us in Saxony at that very moment. 

On the afternoon of April i4th I handed over to the British all the 
1,400 personal items of prisoners' property which we had in store, 
among them a golden cigarette case that had turned a bullet in the 
pocket of Brigadier Davies, before he came to us from the Balkans. 
Other items were fountain pens, and English bank notes. I was 
offered a general receipt but I refused it. I had had enough of paper 
and ink! 

Each of us on the German staff had, as a prospective PW, his 
luggage ready. Luggage in this case meant just what one could carry 
in a small suitcase as entitled innocents that we were ! 

All that now remained was to hand over the castle officially to the 


British. We kept the sentries posted for form's sake, as agreed, and 
stored all the arms and ammunition under lock and key. 

Colonel Tod, General Davies, and Lieut.-Colonel Duke (of 
the US Army) appeared in the Kommandantur for the surrender of 
the camp. The French played no part in this, which made things all 
the simpler, as we had to translate then only once, this time from the 
language of the other side into our own. The surrender document 
was signed, together with a safe-conduct for the staff. The British 
drew a line through the past, a line broken by two exceptions to be 
taken up later, or not, as the case might be : (a) the shooting into the 
British quarters in the spring of 1943 on the occasion of the Swiss 
visit, (6) the Prominente, if they should have been injured or killed 
since leaving us a few nights before. 

Down in the Schiitzenhaus, the 500 French officers had taken 
over simultaneously with the departure of their guards. 

There was another prison camp, of a kind, in Colditz, a concentra- 
tion camp for Hungarian Jews, in the china works. They were in the 
charge of an SS unit, with whom we in the castle had had practically 
no contact at all, beyond a visit from the officer in charge when he 
first arrived. 

The next day was a Sunday, bright enough with the breath of 
spring. In all Europe at that time, there was hope in the air the 
war must end soon. For a Sunday it was quiet. I wondered what was 
wrong of course, no church bells. Yet today, of all Sundays, there 
was surely more reason than ever to invoke the protection of the 
Almighty. Nature carried on, but men and women took cover, 
wondering who would die and whose house would be destroyed 
before nightfall. 

The front windows of the Schloss were crowded with spectators 
from early dawn, both in the Allied and the German buildings. 
From there was a splendid view high across the town and dear to 
the woods two miles away at the top of the rising ground from the 
river below us. It was aU open and slightly rolling country. The 
village of Hohnbach lay between Colditz and the forest. A few 
hollow tracks led out from both town and village and across the 
landscape in all directions, some of them lined with bushes or small 
trees. Generally speaking, there was very little cover apart from these 
tracks for the whole distance between the town and the horizon 
woods, except for folds in the ground. 

Upstream from the town, the river ran between cliffs about sixty 
feet high. That way, on the other bank, was the china clay works, 
where a few machine-gun posts were established. The local Kreis- 
leiter with his Home Guard was in the Hainbach valley this side of 
the river with three 3-inch guns. 

A little after 9 a.m. five American tanks came out of the woods 


to the west and advanced on Hohnbach. They set fire to a couple of 
houses without reply. One tank moved forward and then out of 
sight to the south. Suddenly a shell hit our guardroom close to the 
main gate. The castle made a good target, standing high on the 
skyline and dominating all the surrounding buildings and country- 
side. The American gunner lifted his sights and moved along the 
building. Crash! he hit Wing Commander Bader's window, on 
the third floor of the Saalhaus, where it overlooked the German 
yard. No one killed yet. The room was empty. 

The next shot skimmed the north-west corner of the castle, crashing 
over the pagoda and through the tree branches. Then a couple of 
high ones one short and one over. He had us now ! 

As the lower walls of the Schloss were proof against 2-inch shells, 
the next thing was that a 6-inch howitzer came into action. All of us, 
prisoners (were they still prisoners?) and Germans descended from 
the upper floors. Broken fire from the howitzer continued throughout 
the morning, and one of our sergeants was killed near the bridge 
outside the castle. Two shots hit the Kommandantur building, but 
that was all the damage we suffered. 

In the afternoon, finding little resistance from the town itself, 
the Americans shifted their attack north to the kaolin works and 
after some resistance got over the river by the railway bridge. An 
attempt was made by our own troops to destroy the town bridge 
over the river below the castle, but although over a dozen shots 
were fired at thirty yards' range with a bazooka, less than half the 
central support was destroyed. They tried to blow it later, but the 
charge was too small. 

The Allied officers and men in the castle spent most of the time on 
the ground floor or in the cellars, where it was safer. If the Americans 
had set fire to the place, they were all going to move out down into 
the park below the eastern front, where they would find some 

During the night the Americans came round into the town from 
the north, working downstream against stiffer resistance, but by the 
morning of the i6th there was no further firing from our side. A 
mortar battery fired spasmodically in the direction of the town and 
over it, perhaps so that we should keep our heads down while the 
infantry filtered forward. White flags appeared from various win- 
dows in the town, and in due course one or two civilians went over 
the bridge and told the Americans that there were no more German 
troops about. 

* Lieut. H. E JL Wood, in Dttour, writes that the US gunners were on the point 
of firing the Schloss when someone put a French flag up on the roof, which 
stopped them. ED. 


Riles Reversed 

A SERGE ANT and three men crossed the bridge and soon established 
contact with the castle. 

The German staff and men still present were then all formally 
down-graded to the status of prisoner-of-war. 

Being the only English speaker among the German officers, I was 
marched back over the river to the American Command post where 
I reported from "Officer PW Special Camp 401,500 Allied 
officers and men, all unhurt Nominal roll herewith." 

They took me back again to the castle and we were all told to 
wait. I went aside a moment into one of the cellars to collect my 
"luggage" and when I got back again, all our officers had" dis- 
appeared, leaving their PW kits behind them on the grass. It 
appeared they had all been called for from over the river. 

I set off to follow them on my own and then was stopped. I had 
not realized I was a prisoner and might not move about unless under 
guard. However, I then left the castle for the last time, with a British 
officer and also without my small suitcase! N.B. Memo. PW 
Rule i . Never let your kit out of your hand or sight ! 

In the market-place there was quite a crowd of US troops. I was 
in the charge of a British officer, but in spite of that, the American 
troops all yelled to me, "Stick 'em up" and I thought it advisable 
to overlook the formalities of seniority and command and obey. 

"That's right," was the approving reply. 

I remember seeing a hand microphone in action on a portable 
transmitter, something that we had never seen in the German 
Army at all. 

Back for the second time at the Command post, I found all our 
officers standing in line in a lane at three paces interval, feeing the 
hedge. I began to wonder if this was the well-known "sticky end". 

They searched me and I lost a razor and two candles. I took my 
place at the end of the line. 

After about half an hour standing and waiting, which as I now 
realized was to be the most marked feature, or the most unmarked 
feature, of prison life, we were marched off and placed under guard 
in a house nearby. 

All the camp staff were here, prisoners of the Americans, except 
for Hauptmann Pftpcke, Duty Officer, and our Officer Quarter- 
master busy scraping up food for his former charges, but under their 


unsympathetic direction. These two had some astounding news 
when they joined us later at the US PW camp at Wellda. There had 
been radios in the camp after all ! No less than two were in full blast 
in the yard during the few days before the ex-prisoners were moved. 
Over ten years later, I learnt from the book by Captain Reid (The 
Colditz Story) that in the upper attic over the chapel a glider had been 
built, in sections, for eventual launching if the castle had been 
attacked and surrounded. This, too, was on show during those 
last days, apparently.* 

Several hours later we learnt that bodies had been found in the 
concentration camp down in the town where the Hungarians had 
been working, and they were trying to pin the shootings on us. This 
was an SS matter. They had had orders to leave, as we had, and 
had moved out with their prisoners "to the east". But some had 
refused to go and had been shot. Others hid, and so were released 
by the Americans. It was they who proved that we in the castle had 
no responsibility at all for this SS work, so for the time being we 
were reprieved. There was, however, still another matter the 
uncertainty of which was to dog us for a week or two yet. 

That evening, late on April i6th, 1945, the order came, "Com- 
mandant and Security Officer outside." We two were still being 
held responsible for the fate of the Prominente, whom I had escorted to 
the PW camp at Konigstein. About a fortnight later, though, word 
did eventually come that all these officers were safe in American 
hands, but it was not until then that we lost our own "special" status. 

The curtain fell for me on Colditz. When it rose again the tables 
had been turned. It was I who was now a prisoner, but the play 
continued. Was it to be comedy? was it to be tragedy? 

* Although photographs were taken of this glider, it has not so far been possible 
to trace them, in spite of a lengthy and almost world-wide correspondence. 
Dr. Eggers did not hear of this undertaking until his release from Torgau prison 
in East Germany in 1955. He has, however, since learned from an official of the 
town museum at Colditz that the townspeople had seen the glider. Its significance 
was not appreciated and eventually it was destroyed. ED. 



Air-shaft, the, 49 

Alexander, Lieut M., in, 138, 

Allan, Lieut, P., 33, 51 

Anderson, Major W., 149 
Anti-Semitism, 65, 103 
Arque, Lieut, 51 
Arditti, Captain, 162, 163 

Bader, Wing Commander D., 

83, 88, 140, 147, 182 
Barnes, Lieut, 133, 136 
Barratt, Lieut. P., 123 
Barry, Captain R., 24, 105 
Bartlett, Lieut D., 131, 132 
Beaumont, Lieut J., 148 
Bednarski, Lieut, 34, 35, 163 
Beets, Lieut, 97 
Best, Flight-Lieut J., 114, 132, 


Boisse, General, 169 
Boucheron, Lieut. A., 163 
Bouillez, Lieut R., 165, 166 
Boulay, Lieut, 42 
Boustead, Lieut. A., 42 
British Free Corps, 144 
Broomhall, Colonel W., 129 
Brace, Flying Officer D., 49, 95 
Buisson, General, 169 
Burquart, General, 87 
Bykhowetz, Lieut N., 66 

Camp, lieut, 131, 132 
Canteen, British, 30, 32, 35-37 
Cazaumayou, Lieut B., 30 
Chaloupka, Flight-Lieut C., 

121, 168 

Charvet, Lieut J., 164 
Cheetham, Lieut (R.N.A.S.), 

Churchill, Sir Winston, 57 
Chmiel, Lieut M*, 34, 39, 99 
Colditz Castle, description of, 


history of, 18-19 
Colin, Lieut, 38 
Congar, Captain Rev. d'Y, 105, 


Crawford, Lieut, 102, 103 
"Crown Deep", 140 

Daine, General, 169 
Dames, Captain, 78 
Darthenay, Lieut A., 166 
Davies, Brigadier E., 176, 180, 

Davies-Scourfidd, Lieut G., 

103, 129, 130, 132 
de Frondeville, Lieut. G., 61 
de Gaulle, General C., 576 
de Hamd, Lieut, 175 
Ddarue, Lieut. R,, 93 
Desjobcrt, Lieut H., 79, 92 
Dickie, Captain H., 162 
Dickinson, Flight-Lieut P., 92, 


Diedler, Lieut. G*, 164, 165 
Doherty, Gunner J., 59 
Doorninck, Lieut D. van, 32, 97, 


Donkers, Lieut. P., 67, 97 
Dufour, Captain A., 53, 114 
Duke, Lieut Colond F., 181 
Durand-Hornus, Lieut, 61 
Durant, Lieut P., 52 

Eichstatt (Oflag 76), 122 
Ekkehard, Operation, 119, 120 
Elliott, Captain H., 43 
Elliott, lieut T., 51 


1 88 INDEX 

Elphinstone, Captain the Mas- Heuvel, Captain van den, 53, 

terof, 175 
Escape Museum, 98 

Hexengang, see Witches' Walk, 

Escapes, statistics of, 23-24, 54, Himmler, Heinrich, 155-6, 157, 

Fahy, Lieut M., 165 


Hitler, Adolf, 16, 23, 80, in, 
119, 157, 170 

Falk-Bouman, Lieut. (R. Ncth. Hohnstein (Oflag 4A), 13-17 

N.), 106 
Films, 66 

Flavigny, General, 87, 169, 174 
Fleet, Private, 134 
Flynn, Flying Officer E., 51 
Food Parcels, 22, 61, 80-81, 118 
Football, 66 

Forbes, Flight-Lieut N., 93 
"Fouine the Ferret" (Unter- 

offizier Schadlich), passim 
Fowler, Flight-Lieut. W., 97. 

Hopetoun, Captain the Earl of, 

122, 138, 175, 176 
Howe, Captain R., 140 
Hyde-Thomson, Lieut. J., 32, 

34, 35> 5i> 67, 127 

International Medical Commis- 
sion, 145-7 

Jean-Jean, Captain Rev., 75, 


'Franz Joseph" (Stabsfeldwebel Just, Lieut., 34, 35, 43, 84, 103 
Rothenberger), 126, 129 

Karpf, Aspirant A., 51 
Kartoffelsupp", 32 

Gaston, Lieut, 51 
Gee, Mr. E. H. V., 38 

Keillar, Lieut M., 96, 97, 104 

Geneva Convention, 25, 33, 40, Keitd, General von, 133 


German, Colonel G., 37, 62 
Genshagen, 143 
Giebd, Major C., 53 
Giraud, General, 85, 87 
Girot, Lieut. M., 88 
Goebbels, Josef, 158 

Klein, Captain C., 105 
Kleist, General von, 16 
Klin, Lieut, 123 
Komorowski, General B6r, 169, 

I7<>, 175 
Konigstein (Oflag 4A), 80, 85, 

87, 169 

Green, Captain J,, 143, 146, 147 Krap, Lieut. D. van der (R. 

Green, Corporal, 134 
Guigues, Lieut F., 32, 1 18 

Hagemann, Captain, 78 
Haig, Captain Earl, 175 
Halifax, Lieut., 146, 147 
Hamilton-Baillie, Lieut J., 149 
Harvey, Lieut M. (R.N.), 104, 

114, 132, 133 

Hendeen, Corporal, 97, 104 
Henderson, Captain, 155 
Henderson, Mr. A., 59 

Neth. N.), 53, 60 
Kroner, Lieut, 163 
Kraimink, Lieut (R. Neth. N.), 

53> &>> 89 

Lados, Captain, 43 

Larive, Lieut. E. (R. Neth. N.), 


Lascelles, Captain Viscount, 175 
Laufen (Oflag ?A), 59 
Lawton, Captain F., 52, 97 
le Bleu, General, 28, 62 

Le Brigant, Colonel, 63 
Lee, Lieut. K. 9 93 
Le Guet, Captain M., 75 
Lejeune, Lieut., 57 
Leray, Lieut. A., 31, 38 
Leroy, Lieut M., 57 
Liibeck (Oflag loC), 123 
Levy, Lieut. P., 164 
Linck, Cadet Officer, 75 
Littledale, Major R., 88, 100 
Luteyn, Lieut. A., 67 
Lynden, Lieut. Baron D. W. van 

(R. Neth. N.), 53, 60, 79, 80 
Lynden, Lieut. Baron J. J. L. 

van (Dutch Army), 122 

Mackenzie, Lieut. C., 77 
Maclean, Private B., 177 
Mairesse-Lebrun, Lieut. P., 

43-45, 114 

Manheimer, Lieut. R., 165 
Mascret, Lieut. R., 163 
Mazumdar, Captain B., 1 1 1 
Merritt, Lieut. Colonel C., 143 
Mesney, General, 87, 169, 174 
Middleton, Flying Officer D. 

(R.C.A.F.), 51 
MilitSrstrafgesetzbuch, 25 
Millar, Lieut., 136 
Muserey, General, 87 
Musse, General, 87 
"Mussolini" (Stabsfeldwebel 

Gebhardt), passim 

Navdet, Lieut., 164 
Neave, Lieut. A., 48, 67 
Nicknames, 28, 45, 62 
Niestrzeba, Lieut., 83 
Nollendorf, Battle of, 16 
Nostradamus, 109 

Odry, Lieut. P., 41, 164 
O'Hara, Lieut. W., 32 
Orr-Ewing, Lieut. A., 77, 128, 

INDEX 189 

Paddon, Squadron-Leader B., 

84, 89 

Paille, Lieut, 30 
Park, the, 38 ff., 57 
Parker, Flight-Lieut. V., 131 
Paulus, General, 1 1 1 
Perodeau, Lieut A., 108 
Perrin, Lieut. R., 50 
Piskor, General, 62 
Platt, Captain Rev. J., 82 
Pope, Captain L., 127 
Prominente, 38, 57, 122, 138, 170, 

Protecting Power, 16 

Radios, 106-7, wo, 184 

Red Cross, 22, 61, 80, 118, 162 

Reid, Captain P., 25, 33, 37, 77, 

100, 184 

Remy, Lieut., 84 
"Repat", see International 

tional Medical Commission 
Rogers, Captain J., 59 
Romilly, Mr. G., 57, 88, 123, 

128, 138, 175 
Rood, Flight-Lieut. A van, 1 14 

Sagan (R.A.F. PW Camp), 155 
Schaefer, Captain, 169 
Siewert, Lieut, 25, 26 
Silvcrwood-Cope, Lieut, 102, 

Sinclair, Lieut. M., 88, 103, 105, 

no, 127, 128, 133, 136, 161, 

162, 1 66 

Skorzeny, Otto, 122 
Smit, Captain J., 53 
Stalingrad, 108, in 
Stanislau (Oflag), 122 
Steele, Corporal, 104 
Steenhover, Captain, 60 
Steinmetz, Lieut F. (R. Neth. 

NO, 53 
Stephens, Lieut-Commander 

(R.N.), ioo, 104 

i go INDEX 

Stephenson, Mr. G., 59 
Storie-Pugh, Lieut P., 89 
Surmanowicz, Lieut. N., 32, 34, 

Telescopes, 149-50 
Theatre, the, 49, 61, 69 
Thibaud, Lieut.' A., 50 
Thorn, Flying Officer D., 52, 

114, 115 
Tod, Lieut-Colonel W., 94, 162, 

Trijbar, Lieut. O., 53 
Trot, Lieut., 61 
Tuchaschevsky, Marshal, 57f. 
Tunnels, 35-37, 50, 55, 56, 59, 

71-73, 89, 91, 114, 138, 139, 

140, 149, 155 
Tunstall, Flight-Lieut. P., 93, 

98, 114, 156, 168 
Typewriter, home-made, 89 

Unrug, Admiral, 26 

Unruh, General von, 109, m 

Verkest, Lieut., 51, 74, 80 
Verley, Lieut., 89 
Vienna, 33 

Wardle, Lieut G. (R.N.), 54, 

Wardle, Flight-Lieut H., 33, 


Warsaw, 102-3 
White Russians, 23 
Winant, Lieut G., 175 
Winkelbosch, Lieut 89 
"Witches' Walk", 99, 107 
Wojciekowski, Lieut, 54 
Wood, Lieut J. E., 182 
Wychodzew, Lieut, 83, 85 

X-rays, 83, 117, 118, 120 

[Continued, from front /Zap] 
trickery o all kinds \vere continuous. 
Many escape schemes were such, master- 
pieces of planning and detail that the 
Germans viewed them with admiration 
bordering on enthusiasm. Others were 
outrageously improbable; and for some 
the Germans found no explanation 

Colditx: The German Side of the Story 
is an enthralling narrative, 'with the ap- 
peal of true adventure, escape, and the 
view from the enemy camp. Its translator 
has the advantage of being one of the two 
civilians thought worthy of imprisonment 
in Colditz.